When communicating with the general public, either through our questionnaire or during our seminars on the topic of GMOs, we've noticed that the opinion on the use of genetically modified bacteria varies greatly depending on the aim of the project and the precautions taken when designing it. This further demonstrates the importance of risk evaluation and safety measures.
As we intend for CYANOTRAP to be placed in natural bodies of water, we need to prevent any potential release of genetically modified bacteria into the environment. Although we were not able to implement all of our ideas for keeping our bacteria inside of CYANOTRAP, we will continue to work on this issue in the future.
The lab where we worked on the experimental part of our project falls under the safety levels 1 and 2. Every team member working in this lab had to go through safety training which covered multiple topics, from fire harvard to GMO manipulation. When we were in the lab, some of the doctoral students or other employees were alway present in the building and were ready to assist us if necessary.
Standard protective equipment - like lab coats, gloves, or the use of fume hoods and flowboxes when necessary - was used when working in the lab. No food or drinks were consumed in the lab.
We worked with nonpathogenic bacteria, specifically Escherichia coli and Bacillus subtilis. The GMO waste removal was guaranteed by the Department of Microbiology, where our lab was located.
Ethidium bromide and SybrSafe were used for visualizing DNA molecules in agarose gels. Both of these chemicals were handled carefully and the agarose was stained and left to polymerize under a fume hood. Gloves worn while staining were immediately disposed of. We had to use two different compounds as the departments we've collaborated with used different staining methods and some of their equipment could not be used for gels containing ethidium bromide.
At some point, we would also have to work with microcystin and other cyanotoxins produced by Microcystis aeruginosa. In the end, we did not get to this phase. We will therefore focus on the safety aspects of working with microcystin next year.
We always followed current directions and recommendations of our university and the government of Czech Republic when it came to the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic. We found ourselves in a situation where one of us tested positive for covid. We informed the Department of Microbiology and our supervisors and we concurred that we should get tested and quarantine ourselves for some time to make sure we are not infected, before returning to the lab.
Afterwards, we started using face masks not only in public transport and crowded areas, but also in the lab and on university grounds. In October, the situation in the Czech Republic worsened significantly and as a result, students were not allowed on the university campus and also in our laboratory.