Viral contaminations in laboratories and manufacturing facilities
Dr Marcin Los outlines how to tackle the reoccurring problems of viral contaminations.
he problem of viral contaminations has gained a lot of attention in recent
times. One high profile example was the viral outbreak which took place in Genzyme manufacturing plant in Allston Landing, MA, USA.
Although this case was a kind of worst possible scenario, viral contaminations occur relatively often in scientific laboratories as well as in production facilities. Tey can endanger all types of bacterial cultures and eukariotic cell cultures.
Te consequences range from relatively mild workflow
disturbances to total paralysis of the productivity within the facility.
One of the most common causes of the problems with recovering from viral contaminations is the use of disinfectants which do not show viricidal action - or which the virucidal effect is not strong enough - or the disinfectant is not used properly.
However, there are several causes and combination of these gives negative result of contamination eradication attempts.
Fig. 1. (Below Left) E. coli killed by bacteriophages.
Fig 2. (Below Right) Phage T4. Fig. 1
Among the other causes are: wrong choice of equipment; facility
architecture; wrong work procedures; and badly designed workflow habits.
In some cases, the reason lies outside of the facility. Te problems can be caused, for example, by the contamination of raw materials or the facilities position near rich sources of viruses.
Te most important concern in the majority of facilities is that there are no procedures prepared which can be used in case of viral contamination, or that existing procedures are inadequate.
Proper procedures are necessary, otherwise personnel have to learn by themselves how to fight with the contamination, while problems with productivity persists. Tis process can be very long and not always leads to the solution of the problem. It also distracts personnel from their routine work, and thus the process of recovery from contamination is often accompanied with decreased productivity even in the areas not affected directly by virus contamination.
However, it can be shortened considerably, and thus costs of outbreak can be reduced, when help of external experts is used.
Te main reason is the accumulated experience - experts who specialise in solving contamination problems have experience obtained in many different facilities on different types of contamination. It should be emphasised that their knowledge will be much broader and deeper when compared to internal experts.
Te most frequently observed pattern is a seasonal occurrence of the viral outbreaks with maxima in wet seasons, such as spring and autumn in temperate latitudes or the monsoon season closely to equator. Tis usually means, that there are some problems in the design of the process or procedures, facility itself or instrumentation, and the seasonal appearance is connected with improved transfer and increased load of viruses in the environment. Tus it should be considered a warning sign, which show, that situation can easily go out of control.
Maybe it is good idea to be prepared when next spring or autumn comes.
Enter 39 or ✔ at www.scientistlive.com/eurolab
Dr Marcin Los is CEO,
Phage Consultants, Gdansk, Poland. www.phageconsultants.com
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