Millions of biospecimens will be collected during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. As learned from severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), proper biospecimen handling is necessary to prevent laboratory-related infections.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and World Health Organization severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) interim biosafety guidelines continue to be updated. Presented here are additional considerations intended to complement the interim guidance. These considerations draw on prior SARS recommendations and recent COVID-19 reports.
SARS-CoV-2 viral RNA has been detected in various biospecimen types; however, studies are needed to determine whether viral load indicates viable virus. Throughout the pandemic, biospecimens will be collected for various purposes from COVID-19 known and suspected cases, as well as presymptomatic and asymptomatic individuals. Current data suggest the pandemic start may be as early as October 2019; thus, all biospecimens collected since could be considered potentially infectious.
All entities handling these biospecimens should do risk assessments in accordance with institutional policies and adhere to any guidance provided. The scientific community has a responsibility to safely handle and maintain all biospecimens collected during the COVID-19 pandemic. Soon, it will be imperative to convene expert working groups to address the current and long-term storage and use of these biospecimens. Ideally, worldwide guidelines will be established to protect the personnel handling these biospecimens and communities at large.
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