Colleagues working in laboratory

Exposure to biological agents becomes more important

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, there is an increased awareness to the health risks posed by biological agents. It is estimated that transmittable diseases alone caused 310,000 work-related deaths worldwide in 2021. For this reason, Stoffenmanager® is developing in close collaboration with an international scientific consortium (IRSST- Canada, Lisbon School of Health Technology /Polytechnic Institute of Lisbon; NFA - Denmark, AEHI, -Spain, IOM – UK and NKAL – Netherlands (preparatory phase)) ) a new qualitative risk assessment tool for occupational exposure to biological agents. To present the progress and purpose of this new BioRisk tool, the Research team of Stoffenmanager® went to the Inhaled Particles and NanOEH conference held in Manchester last month. What did they bring to this event? And how is BioRisk developing from here?

We discuss this further with Carlota Alejandre Colomo, Researcher at Stoffenmanager® and lead researcher of the BioRisk tool.

Could you tell us more about what the conference in Manchester entailed?

From 15th to 18th May we were at the Inhaled Particles and NanOEH Conference. Originally these were two independent conferences which now work together with the aim to move current knowledge and understanding about (nano)particle and fibre hazard, exposure, and risk forward. During this event we presented a poster of our research regarding the biological agents. The title of the poster is “Functional requirements to develop a new risk assessment model for exposure to biological agents”. It is a poster we worked on together with the members of our international consortium with whom we are developing the BioRisk tool.

The conference was initiated by the BOHS (British Occupational Hygiene Society), to stimulate the collaboration between researchers, scientists, practitioners, and other experts in the field of inhaled particles exposure assessment, hazard evaluation and risk assessment. So, it was an interesting gathering of multidisciplinary professionals.

We still have a lot of work ahead of us when it comes to make people aware of the importance to exposure to biological agents

Carlota Alejandre Colomo, Researcher | Stoffenmanager®

You presented a poster at the conference. What were the responses to your poster?

It was well received, but the conference was not really oriented to biological agents. That is actually the reason why we went. We still have a lot of work ahead of us when it comes to make people aware of the importance to exposure to biological agents. This subject remains sort of a blind spot. Hazardous substances have always gained most of the attention, however… there are other things out there that can disrupt our work and living environment. As we’ve seen with the Covid pandemic.

What were your take-aways from this conference?

We took knowledge, inspiration, network, and the experience with us. It is motivating to meet other professionals within the field. We had many interesting discussions about recent findings and how we could bring this knowledge further. During this event I connected with two researchers from the UK who might be interested in collaborating. So in relation to our project, we could state that this was a fruitful event.

Where are you standing with the development of the BioRisk tool at the moment and how do you proceed from here?

We have now our inhalation algorithm finished, and we are testing it to see if it needs to be modified or corrected. To be clear, we are still in the pilot phase. In this part of a project, it is important to have as many relevant test scenarios as possible. We are currently still discussing with the consortium members the final draft of the other transmission routes for biological agents, such as; dermal, mucous and parenteral. However, we’ve already received positive feedback from companies that are joining the pilot. They received a detailed rapport from us, which resulted in more awareness on the work floor and motivation to work towards a healthy work environment. And we may conclude that thus far our algorithm is working. All in all, it looks promising.

More about BioRisk
The Stoffenmanager® BioRisk tool is a new qualitative risk assessment tool for exposure to biological agents. Currently, the BioRisk tool is still under development and estimated to be integrated in Stoffenmanager® in the beginning of 2024. The development of BioRisk is in close collaboration with an international scientific consortium ( IRSST- Canada, Lisbon School of Health Technology /Polytechnic Institute of Lisbon; NFA - Denmark and AEHI, -Spain).Read more.