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Transmissible spongiform encephalopathy agents: Safe working and the prevention of infection

  • Last modified date:
    16 March 2004

Guidance from the Advisory Committee on Dangerous Pathogens and the Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee.


This guidance replaces the edition issued in March 1998.

The identification of variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (vCJD) in March 1996, and the suggested link with consuming bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE)-infected beef, led the Advisory Committee on Dangerous Pathogens to review all of its guidance on work with the agents of transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs). This led to the publication in August 1996, of general occupational guidance for those such as abattoir workers who might be incidentally exposed to the BSE agent. Following the establishment of the Advisory Committee on Dangerous Pathogens (ACDP)/ Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee (SEAC) Joint Working Group on TSEs, another guidance document aimed at laboratory and Health Care Workers was published in April 1998, entitled "Transmissible spongiform encephalopathy agents: Safe working and the prevention of infection".

When the first edition of "Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathy Agents: Safe Working and the Prevention of Infection" was published a number of uncertainties, for example about routes of infection, infectious dose, inactivation of the agent, the potential number of people who may be incubating vCJD and the differences between sporadic and vCJD were clearly acknowledged. In the light of those uncertainties, a commitment was made to keep the guidance under review as more scientific information became available and any implications of the differences between the different forms of CJD became clearer.

The ACDP/SEAC Joint Working Group (JWG) monitored new scientific information and results from a wide range of research projects on an on-going basis. It became clear that there was a need to update the 1998 Guidance and a drafting group was formed under the chairmanship of Professor Don Jeffries to carry out this work.

Although the format of the revised TSE Guidance is essentially the same as the earlier, 1998, publication, this new version is significantly expanded, with additional annexes. The guidance is being published on the Department of Health CJD website, in sections, as they are prepared and endorsed by ACDP, SEAC and the JWG. Publishing in this way will facilitate easier updating of individual sections as further scientific information becomes available or future policy decisions need to be reflected.

If there is not a link to a specific section or annex as it is not yet available. Until a section is posted on this site, you should refer to the advice in the 1998 guidance.

It is aimed at staff working with human or animal TSEs in the laboratory, and provides advice also to those involved in the management and care of patients; on the handling of deceased patients; and on the minimisation of risks to other patients and staff. It is important that those (especially employers) concerned with, or responsible for, the management of work that involves a risk of exposure to TSE infectivity read this guidance and ensure that they keep abreast of further scientific developments and reflect them in working practices.

Readers are reminded that this is a guide, and new findings not covered by the guidance should always be taken into account in conducting risk assessments.

The Secretariat thanks the members of the drafting group, JWG, ACDP and SEAC, and all others involved for their expert advice.

The revised guidance

The revised guidance gives advice on work with transmissible spongiform encephalopathy agents (TSEs) in experimental and clinical settings.

It does not cover incidental exposure such as in farms, abattoirs or other work with animals. Separate information is available and is listed in the reference lists at the end of relevant sections of this guidance.

The Advisory Committee on Dangerous Pathogens (ACDP) is a pan government advisory committee, with Terms of Reference as follows:

To advise the Health and Safety Commission, the Health and Safety Executive, Health and Agriculture Ministers and their counterparts under devolution in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, as required, on all aspects of hazards and risks to workers and others from exposure to pathogens.

The terms of reference of the Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee (SEAC) are:

To provide scientifically based advice to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the Department of Health, devolved administrations, and the Food Standards Agency on matters relating to spongiform encephalopathies, taking account of the remits of other bodies with related responsibilities.

(Annex G of the guidance is currently being revised and will be available soon).


  • ACDP: Advisory Committee on Dangerous Pathogens
  • ACGM: Advisory Committee on Genetic Modification
  • BDA: British Dental Association
  • BSE: bovine spongiform encephalopathy
  • CJD: Creutzfeldt Jakob disease
  • CNS: central nervous system
  • COSHH: Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002
  • CSF: cerebrospinal fluid
  • CWD: chronic wasting disease
  • DEFRA: Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
  • DH: Department of Health
  • ENT: ear, nose and throat
  • FFI: fatal familial insomnia
  • FSE: feline spongiform encephalopathy
  • GSS: Gerstmann Str√§ussler Scheinker disease
  • hGH: human growth hormone
  • hPG: human pituitary gonadotrophin
  • HSAC: Health Services Advisory Committee
  • HSE: Health and Safety Executive
  • MBM: meat and bone meal
  • MHSWR: Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999
  • nvCJD: distinct variant of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease first reported in March 1996
  • PPE: Personal Protective Equipment
  • ppm: parts per million
  • PrP: prion protein
  • RIDDOR: Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 1995
  • SBO: specified bovine offal
  • SEAC: Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee
  • SSD: sterile services department
  • TME: transmissible mink encephalopathy
  • TSE: transmissible spongiform encephalopathy
  • UV: ultraviolet radiation

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