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Containment Levels for Arthropods & Plants

Arthropod Containment Guidelines

The study of vector-borne (arthropod transmitted) disease is important to understanding the relationship between disease transmission via arthropods and its impact on public health. Therefore, the use of arthropods which are intentional carriers of infectious disease has led to the development of guidance on how to safely carry out work within the research setting.

The American Committee on Medical Entomology of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene has developed a set of specific guidelines that focus on facility requirements, equipment and containment practices. The Arthropod Containment Guidelines (ACG, Version 3.1, 2003) are specifically geared towards laboratory research, although this research can range from work performed at field sites to well-equipped research laboratories.

The Guidelines provide descriptions and levels of containment for arthropod research (i.e., containment procedures designed to prevent the escape into the environment or reduce the risk of transmission to laboratory workers). These levels are graded from 1-4, increasing in severity, and align closely with the concept of biosafety levels 1-4*.

*For example, Arthropod Containment Level 2 (ACL-2) must be practiced if working with exotic and indigenous Arthropods infected with risk group 2 agents associated with animal and/or human disease, or that are suspected of being infected with such agents.

Transgenic Plants

Transgenic Plants are subject to federal guidelines and regulations pertaining to their containment, movement, and release into the environment. Similar to biosafety levels, The NIH Guidelines provide guidance on appropriate containment levels for plant research involving transgenics as well as rules on the release of transgenic plants into the environment. More information can be found in the NIH Guidelines - Appendix P.

For questions regarding transgenic plant research, contact the Institutional Biosafety Committee ( gb4z@Virginia.EDU, 434-243-0726) or EHS Biosafety (434-982-4911).

Plant pathogens

There are various types of bacteria, fungi, phytoplasmas, and viral plant pathogens, as well as nematodes and other organisms (e.g., arthropods) that are injurious or cause disease in plants. These may be considered plant pathogens and are regulated by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).


The USDA Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) requires a permit for importation or interstate movement of plant pathogens (7 CFR 330). Some plant pathogens are also considered select agents and must meet additional requirements.

The permitting process may involve the inspection and approval of facilities which contain and where work with plant pathogens is performed. The inspection and permitting procedures of APHIS and the Plant Protection and Quarantine (PPQ) are intended to prevent the release of nonindigenous plant pests to the environment. For more information see "CONTAINMENT FACILITY GUIDELINES FOR NOXIOUS WEEDS AND PARASITIC SEED PLANTS").

Please contact EHS Biosafety (434-982-4911) with questions or for further guidance.

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