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Ask a biosafety officer

What does a DIY biologist wear?

Answer from a Biosafety Officer:

March 10, 2014

Because Do-It-Yourself Biology is generic terminology which encompasses a wide range of work, the answer is not necessarily a simple one.  Selecting appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) will depend on the risk associated with the work being performed.


The level of PPE that needs to be worn depends on the organism or material you are working with.  More dangerous materials require more protective equipment. In general, we recommend that DIYBio be done with Risk Group 1 (RG1) materials. RG1 organisms are defined by most guidelines as those that do not usually cause disease in healthy adults (1), and these microorganisms are often used in teaching laboratories (1).  It is important to know that although risk group 1 microorganisms do not usually cause disease in healthy adults, they can pose a risk for infants and children, the elderly, and immunocompromised individuals (1).  It’s very important to make sure that all of your work area surfaces are properly disinfected and separated from food preparation and living areas.  Standard microbiological practices, as described in the BMBL (1) and the ASM Guidelines (2), should be practiced to minimize the risk of opportunistic infection for you and those around you.


Best PPE practices for Biosafety Level 1 (BSL-1) and Biosafety Level 2 (BSL-2), which typically corresponds to working with RG1 and RG2 organisms, includes wearing an outer layer of clothing that can be sanitized or disposed (disposable lab coat, disposable gown), latex or nitrile gloves, and eye protection if splashes of microbes or chemicals may occur. Don’t wash or reuse disposable gloves.



1.     Wilson, D., and L. Chosewood, editors.  Biosafety in Microbiological and Biomedical Laboratories (BMBL), 5th edition.  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and National Institutes of Health.  2009.  Accessed 03/03/2013 (see pages 32 and 36-37).

2.     American Society for Microbiology.  Draft Guidelines for Biosafety in Teaching Laboratories.  2012.  Accessed 03/03/2013.