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Working at CSU

Training assists cooperation between CSU and international scholars

August 4, 2010

On an ongoing basis, the Department of Environmental Health Services provides biosafety training aimed at researchers working with infectious diseases. The staff estimates that about half of the individuals trained are international scholars and scientists.

Safely handle pathogens, emergency procedures

Dr. Massamba Sylla, a visiting medical entomologist from Senegal, in West Africa, examines a respirator.

Every week Heather Blair performs a 1.5 day Biosafety training aimed at researchers working with infectious diseases. The BSL-3 class was developed by the Department of Environmental Health Services to provide lab occupants with hands-on experience on how to safely handle pathogens and avoid contamination, how to properly wear personal protective equipment, how to work safely and effectively in the biosafety cabinet, as well as emergency procedures - instrumental tools for the research at Colorado State University. Blair calculates that about half of the individuals she trains are international scholars and scientists.

“CSU is a diverse campus and we have a lot of students and visiting scientists that come from all parts of the globe. I work with small groups, so that individuals feel comfortable asking questions, and I utilize a lot of props, so that I can show them what I am talking about as I talk to them. I am grateful for the opportunity to train individuals to work safely yet effectively in their lab environments. It’s exciting and a little nerve racking to know that my training will be used to help others all over the world,” says Blair.

Visiting scientists from around the globe

Heather Blair helps Dr. Sylla try on a respirator.

Dr. Massamba Sylla, a visiting medical entomologist from Senegal, in West Africa, says he attended the training in order to learn about policies, safety rules and practices for the use of infectious materials. After completing a Ph.D. in his home country, he is continuing his research at CSU, where he intends to host Senegalese students and researchers to foster a North-South cooperation.

“My research focuses on understanding the genetic diversity of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes from Senegal. In the BSL-3 lab, I will be doing vector competence work, which will entail growing viruses (yellow fever and dengue 2) in cell culture, infecting different strains of Aedes aegypti from various ecological areas of Senegal, and finally monitoring the outcome of these infections using immunological techniques and microscopy. This data will allow us to establish a risk map of these diseases in Senegal,” explains Dr. Sylla, who is working with Professor William Black IV in the Microbiology department. Their research received a grant from the National Institute of Health.

Training alleviates tension of working with dangerous agents

Training provides researchers with the tools to work safely and effectively at the biosafety cabinet.

The researchers who attend the training agree that the hands-on experience helps them feel more comfortable working with dangerous pathogens.

“The training alleviates some of the anxiety I feel about working in a BSL-3 facility. I think the most important part was the biosafety cabinet training. I always remember things better if I actually perform the activity. I know I will remember the hands-on work much better than I would remember instructions that I read”, comments Karen Fleming, who will be working in the same lab as Dr. Sylla.

And as for working with a diverse population, Blair has only positive things to say: “I love getting to know people and learn from them as they learn from me. I just hope I am doing a good job so that individuals like Dr. Massamba Sylla and others can take good competences back with them to their countries. It is overwhelming and humbling at the same time.”

What is Biosafety Level 3?

BSL-3 is applicable to clinical, diagnostic, teaching, research, or production facilities where work is performed with indigenous or exotic agents that may cause serious or potentially lethal disease (e.g. through inhalation route exposure). Laboratory personnel must receive specific training, and must be supervised by scientists competent in handling infectious agents and associated procedures.

Read more in the BMBL manual.

Contact: Fernanda Dore
Phone: (970) 491-4835