A biological agent can be defined as a microorganism that is capable of causing an infection in a human being. Some biological agents are normally genetically modified. Examples of these microorganisms include bacteria, fungi, and parasites. Some of the hazardous characteristics of biological agents are toxicity, pathogenicity and allergenicity. Biological agents are divided into four categories of risk. Those that are not capable of causing a disease belong to risk group1. Biological agents belong to risk group 2,3, and 4 depending on their degree of pathogenicity and the availability of effective treatment. The criteria for classification also depends on the whether the agent is transmissible to the community.
Several methods have been developed so far for the identification of biological agents in soil, air and water. However, most of these methods have only been used in a laboratory setting instead of in the real-world context. This means that there is a need to improve existing technologies or come up with new ones that can be applied in the field. Some of the traditional detection methods include microbial cultivation, nucleic acid detection and immunological assays (Ludovici, et al 2015). Some of the characteristics explored by most of these methods include genome sequences and immunological markers. Another essential identification marker is the ability of the surrogate host to respond to the biological agent. Examples of surrogate hosts include cultivated cells from humanâ€™s animals and plants.
Each method of identifying a biological agent listed above has its own advantages and limitations. For instance, the cultivation method is slow, least technologically sophisticated and limited in scope. However, this method readily provides a clear assessment of the complex behaviors of biological agents, such as their ability to resist drugs. Additionally, cultivation is widely used in most of the laboratories around the world. In other words, it is the most common method of identification in international surveillance.
Environmental identification of pathogens is usually faced with many challenges which must be dealt with to enable the development and implementation of active surveillance. Before any research is done, the genetic, geographic and antigenic background of the agent must be studied, including related agents and inhibitors. Moreover, the evaluation procedure must follow a standardized and validated system. Researchers should grow cultures of microorganisms in the laboratory following an agreed upon standard method.
The procedure of detecting a biological agent should be performed after performing a biosafety risk assessment. This is because the pathogenic properties and any potential hazards associated with such organisms may be novel and not well characterized (Rosoff, Siko, John, & Burns, 2013). If the risk assessment is not conducted, and the micro-organism escapes from the laboratory, the consequences can be unpredictable and catastrophic. Similarly, the release of microorganisms could upset the balance of nature in undesirable ways.
Some of the complications associated with the identification of biological agents include an increase in bio-weaponry and bioterrorism. This refers to the used of pathogenic microorganisms in acts of war. Although the biologic and toxic weapon convection prohibits the use of Bioweapons, some rogue nations have refused to subscribe to this ban. During wars, some countries may decide to contaminate food or water supplies by the newly identified biological agents. This may lead to deaths of many people because coming up with vaccines for a biological agent can take years. Therefore, it is essential for all researchers to observe the standard rules and regulations put in place during the surveillance process.
Ludovici, G. M., Gabbarini, V., Cenciarelli, O., Malizia, A., Tamburrini, A., Pietropaoli, S., … &
Palombi, L. (2015). A review of techniques for the detection of biological warfare agents. Def S&T Tech Bull, 8(1), 17-26.
Rosoff, H., Siko, R., John, R., & Burns, W. J. (2013). Should I stay or should I go? An
experimental study of health and economic government policies following a severe biological agent release. Environment Systems & Decisions, 33(1), 121-137.
Lately, infectious diseases have been found to be most frequent among occupational diseases (Kyung-Taek Rim). For example, occupational diseases are increasingly observed at workplace whether these biological diseases occurred directly through infections or indirectly through the damage that might happened at the working area. Nurses are often exposed to the infection such as, administrating medication, dressing wounds, cleaning and sterilization of surgical materials and inappropriate conditions for carrying out the work process. Also, Occupational diseases are mostly occurred in people associated with industries of construction, forestry, agriculture, sanitation and similar services etc.
According to the website of Haz-map data, biological hazards can be classified into six categories: 1- contact with infected living animals for example, Brucellosis, influenza. 2- contact with contaminated animal products for example, Anthrax and. 3- tick, flea, or mite bite for example, Babesiosis, Colorado tick fever. 4- contact with human or animal waste for example, hepatitis A. 5- contact with infected patient or blood for example, AIDS and tuberculosis. 6- raising dust contacting pathogens for example, rat bite fever.
When we focus on biological agent, itâ€™s important to emphasize this subject and teach worker more about it in order to protect them. Biological analyses at the hospital or facilities to securely know the harmful factors with biological basis are severely needed. Nowadays, itâ€™s essential to enhance workers to understand the hazard caused by biological factors at the work place even if these Hazards are ambitious. Training workers and vaccination should be considered and implicated. To reduce biological hazards, facilities should maintain good hygiene and sanitation. Education program must be applied for the workers. If there is a biological agent at the hospital or specific area, we should as health workers protect ourselves and donâ€™t let community come to the affected place eventually.
Rim, K. T., & Lim, C. H. (2014). Biologically hazardous agents at work and efforts to protect workers’ health: a review of recent reports. Safety and health at work, 5(2), 43-52.
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