Microbiological hazards are potential microbiological sources of harm and can include (but are not limited to) the following:
Microscopic organisms including protozoa and other parasites, fungi, archaea, bacteria, unicellular algae, viruses and viroids. Microorganisms that are capable of causing a disease in a host are known as pathogens.
Proteinaceous infectious particles that lack nucleic acids, which can cause scrapie and other related neurodegenerative diseases of humans and animals.
Material such as human blood, other body fluids, tissues, cells and cell lines as these can carry bloodborne pathogens
Facility-bred animals and / or animals collected during field studies, that carry pathogens naturally or have been experimentally administered with pathogenic microorganisms or derivatives such as viral vectors, or any material such as blood, tissues, cells, cell lines derived from such animals.
Whole plants that carry pathogens naturally or have been experimentally administered with pathogenic microorganisms or derivatives, and any material such as seeds, bulbs, tissues, cells derived from such plants.
Samples that naturally carry pathogens or have been contaminated with pathogens.
Molecules that can pose a risk such as full length viral genomes.
The requirements for working with microorganisms or any material that actually or potentially include microorganisms are given in AS/NZS2243.3: Safety in Laboratories – Microbiological Safety. (To access the standard visit this site and type in 2243.3 in the search panel).
Risk Groups of Microorganisms
Most countries have classifed microorganisms into 4 categories known as risk groups (from risk group 1 to risk group 4) based on the risk they pose to individuals, community and the environment.
AS/NZS2243.3: Safety in Laboratories – Microbiological Safety, gives the definitions and examples of microorganisms that vary from risk group 1 to risk group 4 for human and animal infectious microorganisms, plant infectious microorganisms and microorganisms carried on invertebrates, applicable in Australia (To access the standard and find out this information visit this site and type in 2243.3 in the search panel).
Other resources that can be used to determine risk groups of microorganisms
Risk Group Database given by the American Biological Safety Association (ABSA)
Pathogen Safety Data Sheets available from the Public Health Agency of Canada
Agent Summary Statements given in the 5th edition of the Biosafety in Microbiological and Biomedical Laboratories (BMBL)