Identifying potential provider and environmental contamination on a clinical biocontainment unit using aerosolized pathogen simulants

David G. Drewry, Lauren M. Sauer, Kathryn Shaw-Saliba, Jennifer Therkorn, Kaitlin Rainwater-Lovett, Thomas Pilholski, Brian T. Garibaldi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


The Johns Hopkins Hospital created a biocontainment unit (BCU) to care for patients with highly infectious diseases while assuring healthcare worker safety. Research to date for BCU protocols and practices are based on case reports and lessons learned from patient care and exercises. This study seeks to be the first to explore the influences of healthcare worker movement and personal protective equipment (PPE) doffing on the transport of simulant pathogen particles in a BCU. A cough device released 1 μm fluorescent polystyrene beads (PSLs) in the patient room. PSL transport was then examined under 2 scenarios: (1) PSL release only, no healthcare workers; and (2) PSL release during 5-minute simulated activity by healthcare workers. Airborne PSL concentrations were quantified every second for 30 minutes per scenario by 7 optical particle sensors located throughout the BCU. PSLs were not detected in the donning room at any time nor in the doffing room during the first test scenario where no healthcare worker was present. The main difference detected between the tested scenarios was the presence of PSLs in the doffing room when healthcare workers were removing PPE, potentially due to re-aerosolization of PSLs off the exterior PPE surface or opening of the patient room door. Future work will further explore the potential for re-aerosolization of particles off of PPE during doffing. The present study provides the groundwork for a systematic method for evaluating the BCU and doffing procedures for their respective safety, and it also pilots a systematic method for evaluating potential pathogen exposure pathways for BCU healthcare workers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)83-91
Number of pages9
JournalHealth Security
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 1 2018


  • Aerosols
  • Hospital preparedness/response
  • Personal protective equipment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Emergency Medicine
  • Safety Research
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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