Cutting human xenograft tissue with razor blade results in BBP exposure

What Happened?

On their first day in the lab, a postdoc was processing frozen human tumor xenograft samples with a single-blade razor to prepare them for metabolite analysis. They placed the razor on the benchtop between samples. When they picked it up again, they grabbed the blade instead of the handle, cutting their index finger. They washed the cut, dressed it from the lab’s first aid kit, and sought medical attention for bloodborne pathogen exposure.

Single blade

What Was The Cause?

Because it was their first day in the lab, the postdoc could not find the tool generally used for this procedure and was not aware of sharps handling protocols in this group. They chose a single-blade razor instead of a disposable scalpel and reused the razor for multiple samples. They had also processed multiple samples before the injury occurred, so they were habituated to the task and picked up the blade without looking closely. 

How can incidents like this be prevented?

  • Use disposable scalpels or other blades with handles instead of single-blade razors to increase the distance between the handle and the blade.
  • Dispose of used sharps in the appropriate waste container immediately after use
  • Take breaks if you are processing multiple samples in a row to maintain a fresh perspective on your work and avoid habituation
  • Train new workers to the lab even if they are experienced as they will not be familiar with your lab’s SOPs, etc. This also promotes consistency of technique and reproducibility of results.

Hand with bladeSharps container


What to Know

Human tumor tissues, even if isolated from mice, potentially carry viruses harmful to humans.



Minimize exposure to biohazards:

  1. Express the wound
  2. Flush 5 mins with tepid water
  3. Cover the wound and seek medical attention
  4. Report the incident to your PI