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Student Exposed to BBP by Needle Stick

What Happened?

A graduate student researcher was inserting a hypodermic needle into a catheter attached to a pump for injection of primary human cells into mice. The student used forceps to hold the catheter and their hand to manipulate the needle attached to an infusing pump loaded with human cells. Accidentally, the student’s hand slipped, resulting in a needle stick and possible bloodborne pathogen exposure. The student expressed the wound, washed the area with soap and water, and proceeded immediately to receive medical evaluation. They also reported the incident to their PI and EH&S.


What Was The Cause?

The graduate student manipulated a contaminated needle in a challenging fine manipulation task.

How Can Incidents Like This Be Prevented?

The lab discussed the incident and came up with the following solutions:

  • Replace hypodermic needles with blunt needles.
  • If too difficult to manipulate, insert the needle into the catheter before attaching it to the pump so that any exposure is to clean equipment. Also use a fingertip guard.
  • Use tools to improve stability such as armrests.
  • Be aware that prolonged work in a biosafety cabinet can lead to fatigue and strain which can lead to accidents


Image from the University of British Columbia:




Treat any exposure (or potential exposure) to human cells or materials as a bloodborne pathogen exposure:

  1. Express the wound
  2. Flush the wound under running water for at least 15 min
  3. Cover the wound and seek medical attention
  4. Report the incident to your supervisor


Needle Saftey

  • Use sheltered needles or blunt needles when appropriate
  • Do not recap needles
  • Always dispose in sharp containers