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These are categorised into two types, macroscopic such as animals and plants and microscopic such prions and parasites. 

Infectious microscopic biological agents / microbiological agents are categorised by the Advisory Committee on Dangerous Pathogens (ACDP) into 4 categories Biohazard 1 to 4 depending their infectivity. More information is available on the biological hazard groups page

Micro-organisms are categorised into:

  • bacteria

  • fungi

  • parasites

  • viruses.

These cause harm by infection and multiplication but they can also cause allergies or be toxic. 

Free nucleic acids are not biological agents, however, they can still be a substance hazardous to health, eg oncogenic DNA sequences are able to make cells tumorigenic. Free proteins such as toxins and venoms can cause reactions of varying degrees in people. 

Prions are not living in the traditional sense but are capable of causing transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs) such as bovine spongiform encephalopathy.

A variety of biological agents are used within St George's of different biohazard groups (1-3) and types, eg bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites.

Work with any biological agent must be evaluated under the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health regulations (2002) and risk assessments must be undertaken. If the agents are being genetically modified, the provisions of the Genetically Modified Organisms Contained Use regulations and amendments must be complied with and a GMO risk assessment (Word) undertaken. 

All work with biological agents must be notified to the SHE office and work the that involves the use of genetically modified organisms must be notified to the St George's, University of London Genetic Modification Safety Officer, Ariel Poliandri. A flow chart of the routes to follow to register work is available. 

Information on working with Biological agents is available in the document, SHEP 26A Working with Microbiological Agents in Biohazard Groups 1 to 2 (PDF). Information on working with more hazardous agents is available in the document, SHEP 26B Working with Microbiological Agents in Biohazard Group 3 (PDF). 

Information on the effect of some biological agents is available from Public Health England

Information on blood borne viruses such as Hepatitis B and HIV can be obtained from the Health and Safety Executive.


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