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  • Writer's pictureDirk

Hygienic considerations when working with pathogens

Updated: Dec 14, 2019

More than 10 years ago, i was introduced to work on pathogens. Exciting! As a scientist, i was always aware how easy microbes can be spread around and was trained to follow rules and precautions (Science and responsibilities). However, during the cause of my work to become a wildlife disease scientist and to raise awareness about the deadly disease chytridiomycosis, I was also in touch with many different people. Tourists asking what funny stuff we were doing with all our tubes and gloves and spray bottles and filters etc. I also was in touch with naturalists, amphibian enthusiasts and the like. My colleagues and I quickly realized that awareness on the facility to spread deadly diseases was low and even lower was the understanding what that spread actually would mean for amphibians. Here, i would want to quote someone, an owner of an assessment office, earning money by assessing the development of amphibian populations: "I do not have time to follow your suggestions to clean my equipment etc. I need to do 3 or 4 sites in a given time and cannot spend time to clean myself between them". I was baffled. Really baffled. Speechless. He deliberately was contributing to destroy his income source, because he had no time. Paradox!

In our former project called RACE, we developed a procedure how to avoid spreading pathogens among sites. Find below the different steps and the documents in different languages there after. Please, spread the protocol and not the pathogens!

Standard disinfection protocol

1) Prepare a 1% Virkon® solution (10g/l). The Virkon® solution should only be used as long as the color is at least a medium pink (we recommend to prepare fresh solution each day). The solution can be also prepared in the field, using brook or pond water and a hand-held plant spray to hold the disinfectant.

2) When leaving the water, clean off equipment (boot, waders, net…) with a brush to remove mud and plant and other fragments.

3) Squirt Virkon® solution on all equipment in contact with water,

and wait 5 minutes before reusing, and preferably until the equipment has dried.

Small material in contact with amphibians (e.g. balances, scissors, etc.) can be disinfected by immersion in Virkon® solution and/or alcohol wipes.

If you want to rinse your equipment with clean water, then do this when you return to your home/laboratory.

4) Squirt 1% Virkon® onto the base of your boots/wellingtons before walking away from the fieldsite.

5) Store disinfected equipment in disposable plastic bags, then in a plastic tank in the vehicle.

6) Disinfect your hands with alcohol handwipes (or diluted 70% alcohol solution)

7) On return to your home or lab, field clothes can be disinfected by washing at 60°C. Store all disposable items (gloves, bags, etc.) in a plastic bag, and disinfect them with Virkon® before throwing them away in the garbage.

Here the links to different language version of the complete protocol:

#pathogens #disinfection

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