Biosafety at the IVI

Working safely with highly contagious epizootic and zoonotic pathogens

The IVI’s Mittelhäusern site has a suitable facility for all work involving highly contagious epizootics (animal diseases) and zoonoses (diseases affecting both humans and animals). Activities involving epizootic pathogens up to risk group 4 and zoonotic pathogens up to risk group 3 can be carried out at this facility. The highly contagious epizootic pathogens in risk group 4 pose no health risk to humans, but a high risk to susceptible animal species. As required by law, the shell of the high-security facility meets the standards of biosecurity security level 4 (BSL4) for working with epizootic pathogens. The facility comprises laboratories compliant with BSL3 for working with zoonotic pathogens.

The IVI site at the Vetsuisse Faculty in Bern has BSL2 diagnostic and research laboratories in which work can be carried out with pathogens up to risk group 2.

Working safely

Working safely is essential when handling highly contagious epizootic and zoonotic pathogens. Techniques, practices and principles are applied to prevent unintentional release and thus any exposure of humans, animals and the environment to these pathogens. This requires a sophisticated interplay of measures which are defined by standards. The IVI uses the standard of the CEN Workshop Agreement (CWA) 15973 and the Minimum Biorisk Management Standards of the EU-FMD for laboratories working with the foot-and-mouth virus.

To achieve this, technical measures (e.g.negative pressure vis-a-vis the environment, exhaust air filtration, wastewater inactivation, etc.), organisational measures (e.g. working to strictly regulated procedures, appropriate labelling of areas, etc.) and the wearing of personal protective equipment (adapted to the hazard in question) are implemented. Extensive education and training are required for all persons working in these areas.

Inspection and maintenance

The IVI has a detailed maintenance plan which ensures that critical parts of the facility are regularly checked by its own technical team or by outside specialists. Cantonal inspections  ensure that the statutory requirements of the Containment Ordinance and the Major Accidents Ordinance are met.

Before any research and diagnostic work can begin, the federal authorities are informed about the activities in question. Activities involving highly contagious epizootic and zoonotic pathogens in risk group 3 or higher cannot begin until approved by the authorities. These authorisations are granted for a limited period to ensure regular

updating (ECOGEN).

Additional information