30 Jan 2020

Laboratory biosafety related to coronavirus COVID 19

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has issued interim guidance on laboratory biosafety related to coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).


“Our understanding of COVID-19 is limited but rapidly growing. The WHO continues to monitor developments and will revise recommendations as necessary.

It is essential to ensure that health laboratories adhere to appropriate biosafety practices. National guidelines on the laboratory biosafety should be followed in all circumstances.

Highlights of COVID-19 laboratory safety include that appropriate disinfectants with proven activity against enveloped viruses should be used (for example, hypochlorite [bleach], alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, quaternary ammonium compounds and phenolic compounds) for the recommended contact time, at the correct dilution and within the expiry date after the working solution is prepared.

While little is known about this novel virus, the comparable genetic characteristics between the virus responsible for COVID-19 and MERS-CoV suggest that the COVID-19 virus may be susceptible to disinfectants with proven activity against enveloped viruses, including sodium hypochlorite (bleach; for example, 1000 parts per million [ppm] (0.1%) for general surface disinfection and 10 000 ppm (1%) for disinfection of blood spills); 62–71% ethanol; 0.5% hydrogen peroxide; quaternary ammonium compounds; and phenolic compounds, if used according to the manufacturer’s recommendations. Other biocidal agents such as 0.05–0.2% benzalkonium chloride or 0.02% chlorhexidine digluconate can be less effective.

Particular attention should be paid not only to the selection of the disinfectant but also the contact time (for example, 10 minutes), dilution (that is, concentration of the active ingredient) and expiry date after the working solution is prepared.

Human coronaviruses in general are known to persist on inanimate surfaces such as metal, glass or plastic for up to 9 days.”



Public health efforts are targeted at both interrupting further transmission and monitoring the spread of COVID-19. Regular situation reports from the WHO will keep you up to date on the situation with COVID-19 and the development of information and appropriate response and action here: https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/situation-reports/



The WHO has provided technical guidance on infection prevention and control here:





WHO interim guidance for laboratory biosafety related to 2019-nCoV; 2020 (https://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/331138/WHO-WPE-GIH-2020.1-eng.pdf, accessed 28 February 2020)

Laboratory biosafety manual, 3rd ed. Geneva: World Health Organization; 2004 (https://www.who.int/csr/resources/publications/biosafety/Biosafety7.pdf?ua=1, accessed 14 February 2020).

Kampf G, Todt D, Pfaender S, Steinmann E. Persistence of coronaviruses on inanimate surfaces and its inactivation with biocidal agents. J Hosp Infect. 2020;Feb 6. Pii:s0195-6701(20)30046-3. doi:10.1016/j.jhin.2020.01.022 [epub ahead of print]

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