1. When cell cultures are known to contain an etiologic agent or an oncogenic virus, the cell line should be classified as the same level as that recommended  for the agent.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and OSHA recommend that all cell lines of human origin be handled at Biosafety Level 2 and under Universal Precautions. Therefore, all personnel working with or handling human tissue and human cell lines need to be included in USP's Bloodborne Pathogen Program and complete annual Bloodborne Pathogens training as well as Biosafety Training. Refer to the Bloodborne Pathogens Exposure Control Plan for additional information.

  1. All continuous cell lines should be regularly monitored for contamination with infectious agents, and it should be emphasized that all nutrient media or other reagents that may contain ingredients of biologic origin must be treated as though they contain potentially infectious agents.

    Cell lines which are non-primate or are of normal non-human primate origin, which do not harbor a primate virus, which are not contaminated with bacteria, mycoplasma or fungi and which are well established, may be considered Risk Group 1 cell lines and handled at Biosafety Level 1. Appropriate tests should confirm this assessment.
  1. Primate cells derived from lymphoid or tumor tissue, all cell lines exposed to or transformed by a primate oncogenic virus, all clinical material (e.g., samples of human tissues and fluids obtained after surgical resection or autopsy), all primate tissue, all cell lines new to the laboratory (until proven to be free of all adventitious agents) and all virus and mycoplasma-containing primate cell lines are classified as Risk Group 2 and should be handled at Biosafety Level 2.

  2. It is prudent to handle all cell and tissue cultures of human origin, including well established cell lines *, in accordance with the OSHA Bloodborne Pathogens Standard's Universal Precautions (treating all material as if it is infectious) and under Biosafety Level 2 (BSL 2) containment.

    * It is not possible for every virus to be tested on all cell lines. Even a negative result may leave open the possible existence of a latent viral genome. Therefore, it is important to use caution when handling any human cell line.


University of the Sciences in Philadelphia • 600 South Forty-third Street • Philadelphia, PA 19104-4495 • phone: 215-596-8800 • email: safety@usp.edu