Surveillance of #laboratory exposures to human #pathogens and toxins: #Canada 2016

BACKGROUND: Canada recently enacted legislation to authorize the collection of data on laboratory incidents involving a biological agent. This is done by the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) as part of a comprehensive national program that protects Canadians from the health and safety risks posed by human and terrestrial animal pathogens and toxins.
OBJECTIVE: To describe the first year of data on laboratory exposure incidents and/or laboratory-acquired infections in Canada since the Human Pathogens and Toxins Regulations came into effect.
METHODS: Incidents that occurred between January 1 and December 31, 2016 were self-reported by federally-regulated parties across Canada using a standardized form from the Laboratory Incident Notification Canada (LINC) surveillance system. Exposure incidents were described by sector, frequency of occurrence, timeliness of reporting, number of affected persons, human pathogens and toxins involved, causes and corrective actions taken. Microsoft Excel 2010 was used for basic descriptive analyses.
RESULTS: In 2016, 46 exposure incidents were reported by holders of 835 active licences in Canada representing 1,352 physical areas approved for work involving a biological agent, for an overall incidence of 3.4%. The number of incidents was highest in the academic (n=16; 34.8%) and hospital (n=12; 26.1%) sectors, while the number of reported incidents was relatively low in the private industry sector. An average of four to five incidents occurred each month; the month of September presented as an outlier with 10 incidents.​: A total of 100 people were exposed, with no reports of secondary exposure. Four incidents led to suspected (n=3) or confirmed (n=1) cases of laboratory-acquired infection. Most incidents involved pathogens classified at a risk group 2 level that were manipulated in a containment level 2 laboratory (91.3%). Over 22 different species of human pathogens and toxins were implicated, with bacteria the most frequent (34.8%), followed by viruses (26.1%). Eleven (23.9%) incidents involved a security sensitive biologic agent. Procedure breaches (n=15) and sharps-related incidents (n=14) were the most common antecedents to an exposure. In 10 (21.7%) cases, inadvertent possession (i.e., isolation of an unexpected biological agent during routine work) played a role. Possible improvements to standard operating procedures were cited in 71.7% of incidents. Improvements were also indicated for communication (26.1%) and management (23.9%).
CONCLUSIONS: The Laboratory Incident Notification Canada is one of the first surveillance systems in the world to gather comprehensive data on laboratory incidents involving human pathogens and toxins. Exposure incidents reported in the first year were relatively rare, occurring in less than 4% of containment zones within laboratory settings.

Bienek, A, M Heisz, and M Su. “Surveillance of Laboratory Exposures to Human Pathogens and Toxins: Canada 2016.” Canada Communicable Disease Report 43.11 (2017): 228–235. Print.

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