The Biosafety Level 3 laboratory (BSL3) in Wageningen is a unique facility in the Netherlands, specifically equipped to carry out experiments with viruses transmitted by mosquitoes, such as Zika, West Nile, Usutu and chikungunya. These viruses need to be contained and therefore working in a BSL3 lab demands high safety standards and strict rules for all employees.
Biosafety Level 3 (BSL3) Lab
This is the first Biosafety Level 3 (BSL3) Lab in Wageningen and the only facility in the Netherlands specifically equipped to conduct studies with pathogenic viruses in mosquitoes. The laboratory became operational in 2013 and is technologically advanced – there is controlled under-pressure, hepa-filtration of exhaust air and an autoclave for waste destruction. The BSL3 lab has magnetic interlock doors providing restricted fingerprint access for trained personnel. The researchers wear a white coverall, sleeves, gloves as well as respiratory and eye protection during infection experiments.
Safety cameras provide an overview of the entire work space, including the mosquito room where infectious blood meals are offered to the mosquitoes. The lab has a biosafety cabinet to conduct virus infection in cultured cells, multiple temperature-controlled mosquito incubators and a custom-made tent to inject mosquitoes and collect mosquito saliva.
From West Nile to Zika
In the framework of the European Union funded FP7 project VECTORIE, researchers of the laboratories of Virology and Entomology jointly investigated the susceptibility of Dutch mosquitoes for the highly pathogenic West Nile virus. The studies demonstrated that the common house mosquito (Culex pipiens) is competent to transmit West Nile virus. It was also found that the same mosquitoes were very efficient vectors for the related Usutu virus, which killed many blackbirds and owls in the 2016 outbreak in the Netherlands. In 2017 several research projects (H2020 ZIKAlliance, ZonMw ZikaRisk) commenced to investigate the susceptibility of Dutch mosquitoes to the epidemic Zika virus, and to study the effect of co-infection of Zika with other viruses, such as chikungunya, on the transmission of this emerging pathogen.
The BSL3 lab is situated in Radix Mid.