Planning on working in the COVID-19 research space? It will be important to prepare for the specific requirements for handling infectious materials. The Center for Disease Control makes it clear that research with the actual SARS-CoV2 virus must be performed in a BSL3 laboratory. This includes any culture involving cells isolated from, or exposed, to COVID-19+ patient tissues that may be permissive to virus replication. At this time, there are no definitive guidelines from the NIH or CDC regarding the BSL classification of COVID-19 sample-based research. Because these specimens pose a higher risk than standard agents found in BSL2 laboratories, investigators are expected to adopt more stringent BSL-3 practices and procedures, sometimes referred to as “BSL2+” or BSL2.5”.

To help investigators understand their options, the CCTS has compiled the following resource list:

CDC’s Interim Laboratory Biosafety Guidelines for Handling and Processing Specimens Associated with Coronavirus Disease 2019

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention makes it clear that research with the actual SARS-CoV2 virus must be performed in a BSL3 laboratory. What is a BSL3 Laboratory? Here are the Biosafety Levels as defined by the National Institutes for Health (NIH):

     o BSL 1 - Agents not known to cause disease in healthy adults.
     o BSL 2 - Agents associated with human disease. Infectious via percutaneous, ingestion, or mucus membrane exposure.
     o BSL 3 - Indigenous or exotic agents that may cause serious or potentially lethal disease generally through inhalation.
     o BSL 4 - Dangerous/exotic agents posing high individual risk of, frequently fatal, infections usually by the aerosol route. No known vaccines or treatments are available. Also agents with unknown risk of transmission. Courtesy: NIH.gov

SEBLAB and other BSL3 facilities across the CCTS Partner Network

  • The Southeastern Biosafety Laboratory Alabama Birmingham (SEBLAB) is a BSL3 Laboratory located on the UAB campus. SEBLAB consists of biosafety level 2 and level 3 laboratories and animal biosafety level 3 laboratories. SEBLAB’s facility includes 1) an aerobiology suite 2) and imaging suite 3) irradiator 4) vaporized H2O2 decontamination, and 5) a decontamination chamber. BSL3 laboratories like SEBLAB must be used for all ‘research isolating and propagating the virus’, and when working with ‘any culture involving cells isolated from, or exposed, to COVID-19+ patient tissues that are permissive to virus replication.’ (Credit: UAB COVID-19 Containment Guidance for Researchers). Contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., SEBLAB Manager, for more information.

 Other BSL3 laboratories in the CCTS Partner Network include:

Biosafety Level-2 Enhanced Laboratories (also known as BSL2.5 or BSL2+)

Biosafety Level-2 Enhanced Laboratories are BSL2 laboratory facilities that operate using BSL3 procedures. Learn more about the appropriate laboratory for your research by contacting a biosafety representative. (Contact information for UAB: (205) 934-2487, or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

The UAB COVID-19 Containment Guidance for Researchers

The UAB Covid-19 Containment Guidance for Research document outlines every step of proper containment.