Dr. Michael J. Miller mignatz at
Tue Mar 28 04:15:24 EST 1995

In article <klennon.18.2F7890ED at>, klennon at wrote:

> I am wondering if anyone can tell me the best policy for handling 
> contamination with E. coli...

Greetings.  I can't answer the question of whether or not the lab staff
became ill from opening the centrifuge; however, I can help with the
decontamination problems.  First of all, if the lab is resistant (no pun
intended) on changing their practices to include decontamination of work
surfaces, hoods, etc., and autoclaving ALL biohazardous wastes prior to
sewer discharge and/or other disposal, they may be in violation of state
and local laws.  For example, in New York State, we are required to
autoclave all biohazardous wastes, package in approved waste containers,
and have a special carrier transport the waste to an incineration and/or
landfill site.  Biohazardous wastes include pipets and latex gloves, even
if they never came in contact with microorganisms.  Check to see if your
area is bound by such laws/policies.  It also makes good scientific sense
to decontaminate all work surfaces, even though nothing was spilled or
aerosolized.  As for the centrifuge, you can use bleach, hydrogen
peroxide, or other chemical sterilants (check with the manufacturer for
compatibility problems).  If you have access to a hydrogen peroxide fogger
or vapor phase system (e.g., AMSCO's Vaporized H2O2 System), these work
great..they'll get into the cracks and crevices.  Normal usage for a
centrifuge includes capping all centrifuge tubes and notifying a
supervisor or lab manager (in your case it might be the professor in
charge) when a tube breaks.  There are microbiology safety manuals and
books that describe decontamination and spill procedures (ASM might be
able to provide titles); make a point to educate all personnel,
professors, students and technicians.  The next centrifuge tube breakage
might include something a little more clinically relevant than E. coli! 
Good luck!  Dr. Michael J. Miller, Manager, Research Microbiology, Bausch
& Lomb, Rochester.


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