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Are microbiologist jobs very risky?

  1. Oct 14, 2009 #1
    Hi guys,
    I am majoring in Microbiology right now because I want to be a microbiologist. However, I heard that microbiologist jobs are very risky because they have to research on harmful bacteria and viruses in the laboratory. Have you ever heard of any microbiologist who have died from diseaese during the research? Is there any safety procedure for them before doing research?
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 14, 2009 #2


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    Staff: Mentor

    Absolutely there are safety procedures, training, and audits in place. What country are you in?
  4. Oct 15, 2009 #3
    I am in the U.S right now.
  5. Oct 15, 2009 #4


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    I am a microbiologist and the short answer is yes but the longer answer is more nuanced. It really depends on the bacteria or viruses you are studying. If you are studying microbes that are associated with the environment or plants, you face a minimum of risk coming from the microorganism. If you work with human pathogen, risks are higher. However, those risk are usually well managed in a lab environment.

    The other source of risk is the chemicals you used for research. These probably posse the greater risk in a lab environment. But again, these tend to be well managed in a lab environment if safety procedures are followed.
  6. Oct 15, 2009 #5

    Andy Resnick

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    Safety training has reduced the risks considerably- provided people obey the safety rules. I can always find students working in the lab with open-toed shoes, for example. But working in a laboratory environment has always been risky, given the nature of the work and equipment used (electrical hazards, chemical hazards, laser safety, LN2, radiation hazards, biohazards...) See if anyone around you can remember "mouth pipetting"- I think some techs still do this.
  7. Oct 15, 2009 #6


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    Safety procedures are very strict, especially in the US. As said, if you follow all the regulations the risks are reduced to a minimum. A lab can be a hazardous environment and things can always go wrong, in those instances it is key that you know how to protect yourself and act in a case of an emergency.

    I've seen accidental spills happen with a variety of substances: mutagenic, neurotoxic, radioactive, mercury. In all the cases nobody was harmed and the spill could be removed (and yes, the kind of shoes and clothes you wear matters).

    The biggest hazard is not paying attention, if you have a rotor that spins around with 40,000 rotations per minute and has a centrifugal force of 100,000 x g and you forget to secure it to the centrifuge or if you forget to balance the samples, that is just plain stupid. When these things come loose they will just crash through walls (yes, that happens).
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