Research using microorganisms (including bacteria, viruses, viroids, prions, rickettsia, fungi, and parasites), recombinant DNA (rDNA) technologies or human or animal fresh/frozen tissues, blood, or body fluids may involve potentially hazardous biological agents. Students are permitted to do some research projects with potentially hazardous biological agents meeting the conditions and rules described below which were designed to protect students and to ensure adherence to federal and international biosafety regulations and guidelines.
Rules for ALL Studies with Potentially Hazardous Biological Agents
1) The following types of studies involve BSL-1 organisms and are permitted at Science (Fair) Outside the White House:
a. Studies involving baker’s yeast and brewer’s yeast, except in rDNA studies.
b. Studies involving Lactobacillus, Bacillus thuringiensis, nitrogen-fixing, oil-eating bacteria, and algae-eating bacteria introduced into their natural environment. (Not exempt if cultured in a petri dish environment.)
c. Studies involving water or soil not concentrated in media conducive to their microbial growth (please review all rules below to ensure that there are not more specific rules that may apply).
d. Studies of mold growth on food items if the experiment is terminated at the first evidence of mold.
e. Studies of slime molds and edible mushrooms.
Rules for Projects with Tissues and Body Fluids, including Blood and Blood Products
Studies involving fresh/frozen tissue, blood or body fluids obtained from humans and/or vertebrates may contain microorganisms and have the potential of causing disease. Therefore, a proper risk assessment is required.
1) The following types of tissue are permitted in Science (Fair) Outside the White House projects:
a. Plant tissue (except those known to be toxic or hazardous)
b. Plant and non-primate established cell lines and tissue culture collections (e.g., obtained from the American Type Culture Collection). The source and/or catalog number of the cultures must be identified.
c. Fresh or frozen meat, meat by-products, pasteurized milk or eggs obtained from food stores, restaurants, or packing houses.
d. Hair, hooves, nails and feathers.
e. Teeth that have been sterilized to kill any blood- borne pathogen that may be present.
f. Fossilized tissue or archeological specimens.
g. Prepared fixed tissue.
2) A student may use their own body fluids provided the following:
a. the body fluids are not cultured
b. research is conducted in a home setting
c. the project is observational only
Classification of Biological Agents
Biological agents, plant or animal, are classified according to biosafety level risk groups. These classifications presume ordinary circumstances in the research laboratory, or growth of agents in small volumes for diagnostic and experimental purposes.
Only BLS-1 biological agents are permitted in Science (Fair) Outside the White House projects.
BSL-1 risk group contains biological agents that pose low risk to personnel and the environment. These agents are highly unlikely to cause disease in healthy laboratory workers, animals or plants. The agents require Biosafety Level 1 containment. Examples of BSL-1 organisms are: Agrobacterium tumifaciens, Micrococcus leuteus, Neurospora crassa, Bacillus subtilis.
Levels of Biological Containment
There are four levels of biological containment (Biosafety Level 1–4). Each level has guidelines for laboratory facilities, safety equipment and laboratory practices and techniques.BSL-1 containment is normally found in water-testing laboratories, in high schools, and in colleges teaching introductory microbiology classes. Work is done on an open bench or in an appropriate biosafety hood. Standard microbiological practices are used when working in the laboratory. Decontamination can be achieved by treating with chemical disinfectants or by steam autoclaving. Lab coats and gloves are required. The laboratory work is supervised by an individual with general training in microbiology or a related science.
* Adapted from the International Science and Engineering Fair Ethical Guidelines