Elimination of mouse allergens in the working environment: assessment of individually ventilated cage systems and ventilated cabinets in the containment of mouse allergens

S Gordon, S W Fisher, R H Raymond
Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology 2001, 108 (2): 288-94

BACKGROUND: Laboratory animal allergy is an important occupational disease that is preventable by reduction of exposure to mammalian allergens.

OBJECTIVE: The purpose of this investigation was to assess the efficacy of safety equipment in containing mouse urinary protein (MUP)--specifically, individually ventilated cage (IVC) systems and class I--type and class II ventilated cabinets.

METHODS: Six IVC systems (which are used to house rodents) were operated at positive and negative pressure. Air samples (2 L/min) were collected at the cage front, cage back, air inlet, and air outlet, and the MUP was quantified by immunoassay. The background MUP of the IVC study room was compared with that of rooms where mice were housed conventionally or in isolators. Class I--type cabinets (n = 2) were tested during the disposal of soiled litter. Air samples were positioned on and behind the operator and inside the cabinet (n = 2). Personal samples were collected while scientific procedures were performed in a class II cabinet and in the open.

RESULTS: All of the IVC systems contained MUP effectively (>250-fold) when operated at negative pressure. At positive pressure, the "unsealed" IVC racks leaked MUP (1- to 25-fold reduction) but the "sealed" IVC system did not. Class I--type cabinets reduced (10-fold) but did not eliminate exposure during "cleaning out." No MUP was detected when procedures were performed in class II cabinets (protection factor, >10-fold).

CONCLUSION: Safety equipment can substantially reduce exposure to mouse allergen. Allergen exposure in holding rooms will be minimized if mice are housed in IVC systems operated at negative pressure or in "sealed" IVC systems at positive pressure. Respiratory protection should be used whenever "unsealed" IVC systems are operated at positive pressure or during "cleaning out" in class I--type cabinets.

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