Safety is paramount in the clinical microbiology laboratory and risks associated with MALDI-TOF MS are included. Caution should be exercised with potential high-risk organisms and agents of bioterrorism and consultation with the Laboratory Director is recommended prior to any analysis. For example, criteria such as the first detectable growth on plated media at three days of incubation may be an indicator to perform all testing under the biological safety class II hood.
General safety considerations should include the potential for both chemical and biological exposures:
- Chemical - Safety data sheets (SDSs), formally known as Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS), for each chemical used should be available in individual laboratories for review. The institution’s chemical hygiene plan should be referenced to determine the proper handling, storage, and disposal of all chemicals. Potential chemical hazards include:
Biological - Standard biosafety precautions should be adopted for the safe handling of primary patient specimens and cultured microorganisms to prevent laboratory-acquired infections. Potential biohazards include:
- Direct contact with reagents/chemicals used to prepare samples for analysis, including matrices and compounds used for microorganism’s inactivation or extraction.
- Exposure to chemical fumes created during stock solutions preparation, target slide or plate cleaning procedures, or inactivation and extraction procedures.
- Examining or manipulating cultured microorganisms. If a high-risk agent is suspected (Bacillus anthracis, Francisella species, Brucella species, Burkholderia mallei), do NOT test on MALDI-TOF MS and notify institution's safety officer (or appropriate personnel in your facility) for follow up with public health. Note: If analysis of a high-risk agent is inadvertently tested, contact the Laboratory Director immediately for follow up.
- Handling prepared target slides or plates before or after MALDI-TOF analysis. Organisms are considered viable until matrix is applied and dried. Handling post analysis may pose a biochemical risk.