Use of human blood
Science ASSIST does not recommend the use of human tissue or body fluids such as blood in school science practical classes due to the risk of disease transmission.
Human body fluids such as blood and other tissues have the potential to transmit diseases. There is a risk of exposure to pathogens such as Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), Hepatitis B (Hep. B) and Hepatitis C (Hep. C). Even screened blood samples cannot be guaranteed to be free from infectious agents. The World Health Organisation (WHO) statesi:
‘It should be recognized, however, that all blood screening programmes have limitations and that absolute safety, in terms of freedom from infection risk, cannot be guaranteed.’
Currently there is no consistency throughout Australia concerning the use of human tissue and body fluids in school science activities. Most schools in government jurisdictions prohibit the use of human tissues or body fluids, whilst educational sectors outside government school systems establish their own policies based upon legislation, Australian Standards and their own risk assessments.
The handling of human body fluids or tissues should occur in laboratories classified as Physical Containment level 2(PC2) ii.
Generally, school science laboratories are classified as Physical Containment level 1 (PC1), if they conform to the requirements specified in Section 5 of AS/NZS 2243.3:2010 Safety in Laboratories – Microbiological safety and containment. If they conform to these requirements, then they are only suitable for work with microorganisms and other biological material where the hazard levels are low, and where laboratory or facility personnel can be adequately protected by standard laboratory practiceiii.
When handling human blood, blood products, body fluids and associated material it is generally advised to regard them as potentially infectious. Human body fluids or tissues should not be handled in a PC1 laboratoryiv.
Science ASSIST is aware of the diversity in science facilities as well as in staff training and knowledge of infectious diseases. As a result of all of these different factors, Science ASSIST does not recommend the use of human tissue or body fluids such as blood in school science practical classes due to the risk of disease transmission.
Use of animal blood
We provide some guidelines below for the safe handling of blood from meat purchased from butchers. Schools should conduct a site-specific risk assessment prior to handling any raw meat products to identify any hazards and to determine control measures to eliminate or minimise the hazards.
If the raw meat sample has not been transported or stored at appropriate temperatures, then there is the risk of the growth of pathogenic microorganisms capable of causing food poisoning, e.g. salmonella and campylobacter spp. Therefore, Science ASSIST recommends the following.
- Persons handling this material in a laboratory situation should have an understanding of microbiology and cross infection.
- Persons handling the raw meat should have an understanding of food safety and food hygiene.
- Good personal hygiene practices are required.
- The blood sample would only be suitable for short term storage at 4° C, as it would not contain any preservatives.
- Any water contamination of the blood would lyse the red blood cells (burst the cells releasing the haemoglobin), this would render it useless for any blood-typing experiments.
- Any meat products that have been frozen during the transport process result in red blood cells that are lysed
As a completely safe alternative, simulated blood-typing kits are available from various scientific suppliers. They contain both synthetic blood and synthetic antisera, which produce realistic blood-typing results. There is no danger of disease transmission from these kits as they contain no blood, blood products, or other material of biological origin. For example see: https://www.carolina.com/blood-typing/carolina-abo-rh-typing-with-synthetic-blood-kit/700101.pr
For Australian suppliers see our list of School science suppliers.
Science ASSIST is currently developing detailed safety guidelines regarding the use of body tissue and fluids.
i World Health Organization. 2010. Screening donated blood for transfusion-transmissible infections. http://www.who.int/bloodsafety/ScreeningDonatedBloodforTransfusion.pdf
ii Standards Australia. 2010. AS/NZS 2243 Safety in Laboratories, Part 3: 2010 Microbiological safety and containment. Sydney, Australia.
iii ‘Infection Control Procedures’, University of Sydney website, http://sydney.edu.au/whs/guidelines/biosafety/infect_cont.shtml (accessed December 2015)
ivCCH 2011. Physical Containment Level 1 laboratories 35-190 (accessed December 2015)
‘Safety of Blood Products’ National Blood Authority Australia website. http://www.blood.gov.au/safety-blood-products (accessed December 2015)
Food Standards Australia. 2001. Standard 3.2.2 Food Safety Practices and General Requirements. https://www.foodstandards.gov.au/publications/documents/3_2_2.pdf