2.2. Biohazards

Working with fungi requires good microbiological practice and containment, irrespective of whether they possess a potential risk for the environment or human, since proliferation on the growth medium of contaminants always poses a potential risk. Good microbiological practice is in principle the handling of a microorganism in a "test tube" without any other organisms entering and contaminating it. Containment is in principle the handling of a microorganism with emphasis on safety of the laboratory worker and the environment. Good microbiological practice and containment involves:

Aseptic techniques

  • Limit the open time of “test tube”
  • Open tubes or plates only in bio-safe cabinet/bench to avoid contamination
  • Only use sterile tools (e.g. pipette tips or loops)
  • Avoid casual contact with the bench, fingers, or outside of the bottle
  • Dispose or decontaminate tools immediately after use

Personal hygiene and dress

  • Wash hands prior to and following manipulations
  • Wear appropriate personal protective equipment (gloves, clean lab coats)
  • Do not touch the skin, face, or unclean non-sterile surfaces
  • Confine loose or long hair and keep fingernails short

Area cleanliness and organization

  • Disinfect work area before and after work with 70 % Ethanol
  • Immediately clean spills, and then disinfect the work surface
  • Keep only items important for the task in progress in the bench
  • Plan and lay out work in a logical order so the work in the bench becomes efficient
  • Minimize personnel traffic and unnecessary movements around the work area
  • Routine cleaning of difficult-to-access areas to prevent buildup of dust and debris

Aspergillus spp. produce airborne conidia which represent a potential risk for the experimenter, but no additional attention has to be taken as long as good microbiological practice and containment are followed. In particular, it is important that the cultures grown on agar plates are only opened in a sterile bench and that conidia are only handled outside the bench if they are in a liquid suspension.

If conducting a bioassay with Aspergillus spp. on in vitro reared larvae or in cages on adult honey bees, it is important that the assessment is done in a sterile bench or a fume hood once the Aspergillus start to sporulate. Dead infected bees can be removed with forceps to avoid production of numerous new conidia.

In several countries, permission from the authorities is required to work experimentally with stonebrood fungi, in particular if it is an outdoor experiment. If Aspergillus spp. are used for experiments in bee colonies we recommend using a mask and safety glasses for protection while conducting the experiments.