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Classification of biological agents

Classificatie van biologische agentia


This report contains an inventory of the issues of classification of biological agents, which may cause disease in humans.

The conclusion is that the European list with classifications is dated and needs to be updated and expanded. The current list contains conceptual and textual omissions. There is a lack of information on animal pathogens, opportunistic pathogens, genetically modified organisms, attenuated strains, toxins and biological agents with high risk for human health in particular situations (e.g. pregnancy). This is seen as an important drawback of the current European list.

In the Netherlands the classification of biological agents is embedded in the national Worker's protection legislation. As such the employers are responsible for classification of biological agents that are not on the European list, when specific work is carried out with these biological agents. However, the definitions, instructions and procedures for determining the classifications are equivocal.

The recommendation is to remove the appendices with classifications from the EC Directive, in order to be able to maintain the list on a more frequent basis. There are a number of online and interactive tools available to set up a centralized database with all the relevant information at our disposal. We suggest a central curator of such a resource, for instance the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and/or the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA).

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