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Biosafety

Related Terms

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Background

  • Infectious diseases: Biosafety, as defined by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), describes safety measures applied to the handling of biologic materials or organisms with known potential to cause disease in humans. The CDC is a U.S. government agency focused on public health efforts to prevent and control infectious and chronic diseases. Exotic and deadly diseases must be studied under proper conditions to prevent infection and to find potential treatments optimally preventing future epidemics, and as a safeguard against practices such as bioterrorism. Bioterrorism is the use of disease-causing organisms as weapons.
  • Biosafety measures are important in protecting persons working with organisms that have the potential to cause harm. Biosafety within the lab environment is divided into four levels, with each increasing level involving higher risk of infection as well as being reflected in the greater precautions introduced at subsequent levels.
  • At Biosafety Level 1 (BSL-1), few precautions are required, as the involved risk is the lowest of the four biosafety levels. Biosafety Level 2 (BSL-2) is considered moderate risk; diseases such as hepatitis and mumps are studied at this level. Precautions are increased further at Biosafety Level 3 (BSL-3) in which deadly diseases, such as anthrax and West Nile virus, are studied. Diseases requiring BSL-3 often have a known cure or vaccine. Biosafety Level 4 (BSL-4) diseases are considered extremely hazardous and often have no known vaccine or cure. BSL 4 is required for work with dangerous and exotic organisms and diseases that pose a high individual risk of inhaled laboratory infections and life-threatening disease. Examples of diseases requiring BSL-4 precautions include the Ebola virus and other life-threatening hemorrhagic diseases. The CDC prints guidelines for working with agents at all biosafety levels.
  • Foods and products: Biosafety also may be more broadly defined as the safe transfer, handling, and use of any living modified organism resulting from biotechnology. Biotechnology refers to using living organisms or their products to make or modify a substance. For example, many foods grown within the United States have been genetically modified to produce or eliminate characteristics, depending on what is desired. Since 1994, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved more than 50 genetically engineered foods and determined they are as safe as conventionally produced varieties.
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Technique

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Theory/Evidence

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Health Impact/Safety

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Future Research or Applications

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Author Information

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References

Natural Standard developed the above evidence-based information based on a thorough systematic review of the available scientific articles. For comprehensive information about alternative and complementary therapies on the professional level, go to www.naturalstandard.com. Selected references are listed below.

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The information in this monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. Information is based on review of scientific research data, historical practice patterns, and clinical experience. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions.