Describe all the safety issues of your project.



Safety and good laboratory practice should be the pinnacle aspect of any research project, without it risks can be left unidentified and personnel can be harmed as a consequence. With this in mind, all laboratory work carried out in our iGEM project adhered to strict Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and Control Of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) forms. The purpose of this ensured all those working within the laboratory were aware of any risks associated to be able to respond appropriately to minimise this.

Project Design Safety

Safety when designing a project was a significant focus area, especially as we wanted to focus on therapeutics. Medical devices and research must abide by strict regulations and procedures and so we ensured to consider the safety of our project design at every point.

As our project design revolved around coating catheters in bacteria to produce molecules that disrupt biofilm formation, we were wary of how people may perceive this proposal. It was decided to use the bacterial strain Lactiplantibacillus plantarum as this is a probiotic and commensal that is naturally occurring within the normal microbiome flora. It is one of the most studied probiotic microbes with extensive use in the food industry due to it being regarded as 'safe' to humans[1].

Additionally, Staphylococcus epidermidis was chosen as the bacteria used to form biofilms due to its similarity to Staphylococcus aureus and as it is on the white list whereas the latter is not.

Laboratory Safety

Experimentation was conducted in one of the laboratories in the BioCatalysis Centre and is a Risk Group Level 2 (moderate containment). This laboratory is equipped with:

  • Spill kits
  • First Aid Kits
  • Emergency phone
  • Fire Extinguishers/blankets
  • Eye Wash stations
  • Fume hoods
  • Gas detectors
  • Cabinets labelled for flammables and chemicals
  • Laminar Flow hoods for a contamination-free work environment
  • Flood detectors

Initially, all of our team members undertook local induction training around various health and safety concepts. During this training, we were given a tour of the laboratory as well as details concerning COSHH, general risk assessments, emergency/first aid procedures and fire safety. All training was carried out by the assistant laboratory manager and all team members completed the form relating to this before being allowed to work in the laboratory.

Before any new protocols were carried out, all members working read the COSHH and SOPs associated with it. If there was not an existing COSHH form, we would write one. This happened on a few occasions such as when using Congo Red and Crystal Violet staining. Any forms written were reviewed and approved by our PI, Dr. Chloe Singleton.

In accordance with the regulations and policies of iGEM, all of our organisms used were on the White List and we did not have any that required a check in.

Waste Disposal

During training, we were reminded to label any equipment we used to ensure that anyone else working knew exactly what any tubes/flasks contained. The waste streams of the laboratory were indicated to us, emphasising the importance of proper waste disposal and what each stream involved.

The waste streams of the laboratory are as follows:

  • Yellow bin -> waste for incineration
  • Black bag -> domestic waste
  • Red bin -> biological waste
  • Yellow and purple bucket -> sharps and hazardous waste (cytotoxic)
  • Yellow and orange bucket -> sharps and hazardous waste
  • Yellow bio-bin -> infectious waste

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Human Subject Research Safety

Throughout our project, we conducted several interviews, questionnaires via social media polls and meetings with healthcare professionals, experts and patients. Ethical considerations were required regarding this and so we made sure to take all necessary steps to ensure we were abiding by the relevant regulations.

Within the Biosciences Department, any social science research requires ethical approval from the Biosciences ethics committee. To gain this we filled in the relevant form, detailing exactly what we aimed to do and achieve. We were also advised to contact the university's Department of Ethics and Governance as our human practice plans involved the NHS. After meeting with staff from the department it was established that we did not require external ethical approval, but we would need to gain approval from the facilities we wanted to contact.

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