Some of the laboratory experiments included in this text may be hazardous if you handle materials improperly or carry out procedures incorrectly. Safety precautions are necessary when you work with any microorganism, and with chemicals, glass test tubes, hot water baths, sharp instruments, and similar materials. Your school may have specific regulations about safety procedures that your instructor will explain to you. If you have any problems with materials or procedures, please ask your instructor for help.
Safety Procedures and Precautions
The microbiology laboratory, whether in a classroom or a working diagnostic laboratory, is a place where cultures of microorganisms are handled and examined. This type of activity must be carried out with good aseptic technique in a thoroughly clean, well-organized workplace. In aseptic technique, all materials that are used have been sterilized to kill any microorganisms contained in or on them, and extreme care is taken not to introduce new organisms from the environment. Even if the microorganisms you are studying are not usually considered pathogenic (disease producing), any culture of any organism should be handled as if it were a potential pathogen. With current medical practices and procedures, many patients with lowered immune defenses survive longer than they did before. As a result, almost any microorganism can cause disease in them under the appropriate circumstances.
Each student must quickly learn and continuously practice aseptic laboratory technique. It is important to prevent contamination of your hands, hair, and clothing with culture material and also to protect your neighbors from such contamination. In addition, you must not contaminate your work with microorganisms from the environment. The importance of asepsis and proper disinfection is stressed throughout this manual and demonstrated by the experiments. Once these techniques are learned in the laboratory, they apply to almost every phase of patient care, especially to the collection and handling of specimens that are critical if the laboratory is to make a diagnosis of infectious disease. These specimens should be handled as carefully as cultures so that they do not become sources of infection to others. An important problem in hospitals is the transmission of microorganisms between patients, especially by contaminated hands. Well-trained professionals, caring for the sick, should never be responsible for transmitting infection between patients. Appropriate attention to frequency and method of hand washing (scrubbing for at least 30 seconds) is critical for preventing these hospital-acquired infections (also known as nosocomial infections).
In general, all safety procedures and precautions followed in the microbiology laboratory are designed to:
Personal conduct in a microbiology laboratory should always be quiet and orderly. The instructor should be consulted promptly whenever problems arise. Any student with a fresh, unhealed cut, scratch, burn, or other injury on either hand should notify the instructor before beginning or continuing with the laboratory work. If you have a personal health problem and are in doubt about participating in the laboratory session, check with your instructor before beginning the work. Careful attention to the principles of safety is required throughout any laboratory course in microbiology.
General Laboratory Directions
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