The goals of the Biological Safety Program are to protect laboratory workers, the public and the environment from potentially hazardous biological agents and toxins. Some regulations are essential if experiments are to be done safely. The University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) Institutional Biosafety Committee (IBC) advocates the use of biosafety precautions that effectively reduce or eliminate the risk of exposure to potentially hazardous agents used in research.
Biological laboratories are special work environments that can pose infectious disease or toxin exposure risks to persons working or entering these laboratories. In fact, there is a clear historical record of infections having been acquired in laboratory settings. More than 4,000 laboratory-acquired infections have been reported since the 1920s and many others have occurred.
The principles of infection need to be kept in mind when appropriate biosafety precautions are selected. Agents vary in their virulence, or capacity to infect and cause disease. Whether disease results from infection is dependent upon the inoculum or the number of infectious agent particles presented to the host, the route of transmission and the innate capabilities of the agent. The susceptibility of the host to infection may vary according to age, prior exposure with development of immunity, deliberate immunization with a vaccine and host immunodeficiency as the result of a genetic trait, infection (e.g. with HIV-1) or therapy, such as corticosteroids, radiation or other suppressive therapy. Infectious agents are grouped under Risk Group (RG) 1 - 4 according to their virulence characteristics. Many infectious agents are assigned a Risk Group (RG) according to their virulence chacteristics in humans. Risk Groups range from 1-4 with RG 4 being the most dangerous. Biosafety principles also are used to enact methods to contain recombinant materials, which could pose risks to the environment if released.