The microbiology department is the area where pathogenic microorganisms are detected and identified. The department is divided in three sections: bacteriology, virology, and mycology. Sometimes another department for parasitology is created, but its services are not used frequently in the United States.
The microbiology department receives various specimens from the specimen collection and processing department. Such specimens include blood, body fluids, respiratory specimens, skin scrapings, stool, swabs of various kinds, and urine.
A biosafety level is assigned to each laboratory based on the classification of biological agents handled and their associated risk (Table 2). Additional safety training and equipment may be necessary depending on the microbiology department's biosafety level.
Table 2. Biosafety Levels and their Associated Risks and PPE.
|Biosafety Level||Agents||Risk of Causing Disease||Protection and Training||Example|
Standard PPE and lab practices
|Bacillus subtilis (bacterium)|
Limited lab access, disposal precautions, biosafety hoods
| Salmonella spp. (bacteria)|
Required handling training, biosafety hood work only, specialized PPE
|Mycobacterium tuberculosis (bacterium) |
| 4||Very rare|
(often with no vaccine or treatment options)
Required handling training, specialized engineering features to control air movement, specialized PPE
(extremely contagious virus)