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Theriogenology. 2009 Apr 15;71(7):1079-82. doi: 10.1016/j.theriogenology.2008.12.011. Epub 2009 Feb 11.

Contaminated liquid nitrogen vapour as a risk factor in pathogen transfer.

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Department of Agriculture and Ecology, University of Copenhagen, Højbakkegård Alle 13, 2630 Taastrup, Denmark.


Liquid nitrogen in storage containers will gather particulate matter from the atmosphere, or the surfaces of containers placed into it, with time. Some of these accumulating particles may be pathogenic organisms and it can be demonstrated that their viability may be conserved by immersion in the liquid nitrogen. This contamination constitutes a risk to the status of stored samples that can, largely, be avoided by the use of appropriate techniques for sealing sample containers and sterilizing their outer surfaces. The present study uses fungal spores and organic crystals to demonstrate that such particles contained in liquid nitrogen are released back into the environment when nitrogen vapour cools programmable freezers or dry shippers. This demonstrates that storage in the vapour phase above liquid nitrogen still carries a real risk of sample, or facility, contamination. Regardless of the safety of the stored sample, this is a potential source of cross-contamination between repositories or experimental sites, both locally and internationally, that could have serious consequences in clinical and agricultural situations. This study provides evidence to suggest that this possibility, as yet unquantified, should be included in risk analysis of storage protocols for reproductive materials. The risk becomes diverse when, for example, semen and embryos are frozen at an agricultural site and the dry shipper can co-transport spores of contaminating crop plant pathogens to the destination site.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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