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Acinetobacter baumannii Biological Agent Reference Sheet (BARS)

Updated October 2, 2023

Disclaimer: Risk group, biosafety level, and all other precautions noted here are subject to change after a risk assessment by EHS.


Agent Type Risk Group Biosafety Level Animal Housing Biosafety Level
Bacteria  RG-2 BSL-2 ABSL-2

Agent Characteristics 

Risk Group:  RG-2 associated with human disease, rarely serious; preventive, or therapeutic interventions often available.

Agent Type:  Bacteria 

Description: Rod-shaped Gram-negative bacteria.  Members of the genus Acinetobacter are commonly found in soil and water.  While many of the species within the Acinetobacter genus appear likely to cause disease, A. baumannii accounts for about 80% of reported infections.  Outbreaks of Acinetobacter infections typically occur in intensive care units and healthcare settings housing very ill patients. Acinetobacter infections rarely occur outside of the healthcare setting.  Acinetobacter poses very little risk to healthy people.  However, people who have weakened immune systems, chronic lung disease, or diabetes may be more susceptible to infections with AcinetobacterResistance to available antimicrobial agents is an area of great concern in working with this agent.

Host Range: Acinetobacter can be spread to susceptible persons by person-to-person contact or contact with contaminated surfaces.  Healthy individuals may be able to act as carriers if colonized in the laboratory setting by poor technique or accident.

Host Shedding: Direct contact
Routes of Exposure to Humans: Direct Contact, Mucous Membranes, Contaminated Items, Percutaneous, Broken skin

Infectious Dose: Unknown                                 Incubation Period: Approximately 7 days

Health Hazards

Signs and symptoms of infection may include:

  • Flu-like symptoms (i.e. fever, headache, dehydration, weight loss, lethargy)
  • Cutaneous symptoms (i.e. skin lesions, rash)
  • Respiratory symptoms (i.e. coughing, sneezing)

Immunizations: None available                            Prophylaxis*: None available

*Formal medical advice is obtained during medical consultations with Cornell Health or a primary healthcare provider as needed.

Agent Viability 

Survival Outside Host Disinfection Inactivation

A. baumannii can survive in the environment and has been isolated from soils, foods, and inanimate surfaces. 

1:10 Bleach Dilution (30+ seconds)

Other disinfectants

Autoclave for at least 1 hour.

For more guidance on disinfection see: disinfectant selection.

Laboratory Hazards 

  • High energy-creating activities (centrifugation, sonication, high pressure systems, vortexing, tube cap popping)
  • Handling of sharps (needles, scalpels, microtome blades, broken glass, etc.)
  • Splash/droplet-creating activities (shaking incubators, liquid culturing, mechanical pipetting)
  • Equipment contamination
  • Exposed skin/uncovered wounds

Laboratory Acquired Infection (LAI) History: None reported to date.

Laboratory Handling Guidelines 

Laboratory Biosafety Level (BSL): BSL-2

Training Lab Engineering Controls Personal Protective Equipment
  • Eye Protection
  • Single gloves
  • Additional gloves
  • Snap-front lab coat with cinch cuffs

Waste Management: Regulated Medical Waste (RMW)

Shipping Guidance: Refer to EHS Biological Materials Shipping 

Attenuated Strain Alternatives: Acinetobacter baumannii SDF (antibiotic-sensitive) strain

Animal Vivarium Guidance

Animal Housing Biosafety Level (ABSL): ABSL-2

Animal Biosecurity: Information not available.  

Perform Inoculations: In a Biosafety Cabinet

Change Cages: In a Biosafety Cabinet

Exposure and Spill Procedures 

Mucous Membranes: Flush eyes, mouth, or nose for 15 minutes at an eyewash station. See: responding to exposures.

Other Exposures: Wash with soap and water for 15 minutes (open wounds, sores, etc.) or a minimum of 20 seconds for areas with intact skin. See: responding to exposures.

Small Spills: Notify others working in the lab. Evacuate the area and allow 30 minutes for aerosols to settle. Don appropriate PPE. Cover area of the spill with paper towels and apply disinfectant, working from the perimeter toward the center. Allow 30 minutes of contact time before disposal and cleanup of spill materials. See spill cleanup.

Large Spills: Request assistance from the EHS Spill Team by calling CUPD dispatch. Call 911 from a campus phone or 607-255-1111 from a mobile phone.

Incident Reporting: Immediately report the incident to the supervisor and complete the EHS online injury/illness report as soon as possible.

Medical Follow-Up:

  • For students, seek medical attention at Cornell Health or local primary care provider. Call Cornell Health at 607-255-5155 (24-hour phone consultation line) or a local urgent care. 
  • For faculty and staff, seek medical evaluation with a local primary care provider or urgent care. Cornell Health does not see employees for post-exposure care. 
  • Emergencies: Call 911 from a campus phone or 607-255-1111 from a mobile phone. 
Cornell EHS would like to thank Emory University for the use of their Biological Agent Reference Sheet (BARS) format and some content. 

More Information


  1. CDC Acinetobacter information: Acinetobacter in Healthcare Settings
  2. Montana State Agent Information Sheet: Acinetobacter Baumannii
  3. Manchanda V, Sinha S, Singh N. 2010. Multidrug resistant Acinetobacter. J Glob Infect Dis 2:291.
  4. Zordan S, Prenger-Berninghoff E, Weiss R, et al. Multidrug-resistant Acinetobacter baumannii in veterinary clinics, GermanyEmerg Infect Dis. 2011;17(9):1751‐1754.