Barrier levels at KI animal facilities

Different barrier levels at KI animal facilities allows optimized animal welfare, efficient use of resources and reliable research results.

Karolinska Institutet is one of the worlds most prominent medial universities focusing on improving human health. A key success factor to reaching our goal is having scientists working in a modern and safe environment which contributes in the best possible way to reliable research results.

Good animal welfare is crucial

Animal research is based on good animal welfare and prohibiting the dispersal of infectious diseases which may affect the animal welfare and the research results. Safe and efficient handling and transportation of animals is paramount.

To reach the goal of optimal animal welfare KI has defined a barrier concept with several "barrier levels" in the animal facilities. The barrier levels contribute to the refinement of animal research, but also to the reduction of the number of animals used in research, according to the principle of the 3Rs.

Example: A PhD student or postdoc with limited amount of time to complete a study may experience serious consequences if faced by a contaminant a the animal facility such as delayed experiments and affected research results. By offering several barrier levels KI creates a research environment where the risk of disease dispersal is minimal, and where it is possible to move animals between different units within the same barrier level or to a lower barrier level.

What is a barrier?

A barrier is an air-tight, delimited animal facility unit with a stable, defined and standardized environment which makes it possible to conduct animal experiments under microbiological control. The barrier is maintained by a strictly controlled air flow and pressure as well as strict rules for movement of personnel, animals, materials and equipment. Control systems are access through air locks ("air showers") with regulated air flow of sterilized and filtered air.

Different approaches in research may require different settings, which the barriers can provide. The different barrier levels typically fulfill the needs of:

  • the animals' sensitivity to infections (immunocompromised animals)
  • the type of activity (core breeding, regular breeding, long- or short term experiments, acute experiments, infectious experiments)
  • the allowed level of access for personnel (researchers, animal technicians)

The barrier levels

For barrier B, C and D the personnel may enter a lower barrier level (B → C → D) without quarantine. Entering higher barrier levels (D → C → B ) requires a quarantine period of at least 24 hours including a regular shower with water. 

For barrier A the possibility to enter other barrier levels is determined by the activities in the barrier. From barrier A+ the personnel may, in most cases, enter barrier C and D directly. From barrier A- to another barrier a regular shower with water is needed.

Animals may be moved to a lower barrier level (B → C → D) without any decontamination procedure or quarantine period, but only on consent from the animal facility management and registration of the move in the official animal records data base.

A standard for animal research

Barrier levels presents the perfect setting for standardized animal research at KI. This means that all animal facilities have the same routines for working with animal care, breeding, procedures and logistics.

Standardized working routines facilitates:

  • reporting on how the animal has been handled during the experiment
  • cluster information on similar research
  • improve the prerequisites and knowledge transfer across research projects
  • share costs for housing space, equipment and personnel
  • transfer of animals between animal facility units

Example: A scientist who wishes to report on all relevant parameters during an experiment may do so in a simple, standardized and transparent way. Research results can then be more easily evaluated and repeated by other scientists.

Rules for the barriers at KI

Barrier A+

  • A+ is the barrier level adapted to critical core breeding, severely immunocompromised animals and gnotobiotic animals.
  • Personnel has an air shower in and out of the barrier. At least 24 hours quarantine period and a regular water shower including a hair wash and change of clothes is required after visiting a lower barrier level or if in close contact with rodents. Regular access is not granted; certain competence is required.
  • Animals enter on the basis of a case-to-case evaluation by the facility management.

Barrier A-

  • A- is the barrier level for e.g. infectious experiments, quarantine of imported animals or isolation of infected animals still undergoing experiments. Within the A- barrier BSL 3 experiments may be conducted if certain requirements are fulfilled.
  • Personnel has an air shower in and out of the barrier. At least 24 hours quarantine period and a regular water shower including a hair wash and change of clothes is required after visiting a lower barrier level or if in close contact with rodents. Regular access is not granted; certain competence is required.
  • Animals enter on the basis of a case-to-case evaluation by the facility management.

Barrier B

  • Barrier B level is a SOPF (specific-opportunistic-pathogen-free) unit for core breeding, trans gene and knock out production, and for animals with mild immunodeficiencies.
  • Personnel has an air shower in and out of the barrier. At least 24 hours quarantine period and a regular water shower including a hair wash and change of clothes is required after visiting a lower barrier level or if in close contact with rodents. Scientists are only granted temporary access in the presence of an animal technician as agreed on a case-to-case basis. Regular access is not granted.
  • Animals enter through embryo transfer. Special cases may occur if the barrier is made to receive live animals from a certain breeder (only SOPF animals).

Barrier C

  • Barrier level C is the typical environment for most animal experiments, but also for regular breeding of desired genotypes if core breeding in a higher barrier level is not necessary.
  • Personnel has an air shower in and out of the barrier. At least 24 hours quarantine period and a regular water shower including a hair wash and change of clothes is required after visiting a lower barrier level or if in close contact with rodents. Access is only granted to persons working with animal care or performing animal experiments.
  • Animals enter through embryo transfer. Live animals with known SPF status from certain breeders may also enter with approved means of transport.

Barrier D

  • Barrier level D is an Open access/dead-end-unit for collaborations, phenotyping, core facilities, and other similar activities. This barrier level offers a possibility for temporary short-term housing without breeding. A typical housing period is 1-4 weeks, but it is possible to apply for longer periods of housing as well if needed.
  • Personnel has an air shower in and out of the barrier. At least 24 hours quarantine period and a regular water shower including a hair wash and change of clothes is required after visiting a lower barrier level or if in close contact with rodents. Access is only granted to persons working with animal care or performing animal experiments.
  • Live animals which do not fulfill the FELASA standard enter on the basis of a case-to-case evaluation by the facility management.

(Barrier) E

  • Barrier E level is an open unit without any protective shell housing animals in terminal experiments. The animals may not be housed longer than what is stated in the ethics permit for the terminal procedure.
  • Access is only granted to persons working with animal care or performing animal experiments. On entering, a prep room is available where required lab coats, hair nets and hand disinfection is available. On exiting, an air shower is available to prevent the spread of allergens.
  • Live animals may enter even if their health status does not fulfill the FELASA recommendations, with the exception for animals with zoonoses, endo- or ectoparasites, MHV, mycoplasma, parvo virus and other infectious agents according to a defined list. 

Background

During 2010-2018 the animal facilities at Karolinska Institutet were remodelled and updated. Old facilities were rebuilt, or replaced by newly built ones. Facing the remodelling project was a collected group of representatives from the CMB and MTC departments, as well as the KI veterinary unit and the KI real estate unit, whom together defined the KI barrier levels A-D. The definition of these barrier levels has later been complemented with the E barrier level.

KM
Komparativ Medicin
2022-05-03