klennon at klennon at
Tue Mar 28 17:42:53 EST 1995

I am wondering if anyone can tell me the best policy for handling 
contamination with E. coli. For example, one of the labs in my department 
grows up large volumes (4-8 liters at a time) of ampicillin-resistant E. coli. 
They pellet their cells by centrifugation in a superspeed centrifuge that is 
used by all of the other department members for their work (ie, we spin our S. 
cerevisiae samples, another lab spins blood, another one spins saliva. . 
.quite a diverse group). Last week, we opened the superspeed to put our yeast 
in to pellet and were blasted with a very strong bacteria smell. It turns out 
that there was a soup of bacteria and God-knows-what-else growing in the 
bottom of the centrifuge, due to improper techniques of decontaminating 
surfaces. The person who opened up the centrifuge ended up with acute rhinitis 
and conjunctivitis, not to mention feeling just plain tired and lousy. Both of 
the other people present had symptoms of tightness in the chest and difficulty 
breathing and blocked sinuses. Upon investigation, we found that people do not 
routinely decontaminate surfaces, nor do they even bother to autoclave the 
media the cells are grown in before pouring it down the drain. They don't 
even bother decontaminating surfaces that could potentially be contaminated 
with viruses (am I right in my idea that the Hep B virus can live on 
surfaces for a week?) The safety office here says that our symptoms are not 
from the E. coli, just a coincidence. The responsible lab has not changed its 
habits. I want to write a protocol for them to follow, since our safety office 
currently does not have a standard protocol they can advise us to use. Our lab 
only grows up 1 ml cultures of bacteria ourselves, but we know that we have to 
treat the media with either ethanol or bleach and that we must autoclave 
plates before discarding them, but it would be nice to be able to convince 
others to do the same and have some solid reasons as to why. 

Thanks in advance.
klennon at

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