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Aspergillus spp. Biological Agent Reference Sheet (BARS)

Updated December 1, 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
Fungus  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: Fungus 

Description: This genus of saprotrophic (lives and feeds on dead organic matter) and pathogenic fungi, is one of the few known animal, human and plant pathogens. Aspergillus spp., including A. fumigatus and A. flavus, are ubiquitous worldwide in the environment including in soil, decomposing organic matter, household dust, building materials, plants, food and water. A. fumigatus and A. flavus are both etiologic agents known for causing the human disease aspergillosis. A. fumigatus is the leading agent causing aspergillosis, with about 70% of cases; it can be abundant in soils and presumably in dust blowing off of agricultural fields. A. flavus causes about 20% of aspergillosis in humans. A. flavus is also known for the colonization of cereal grains, legumes and tree nuts. Plant infection can occur pre-harvest and show no symptoms until postharvest storage or transport. Aspergillus spp. conidia (asexual spores) are commonly present in the air, both indoors and outdoors, and during all seasons of the year. Many strains of A. flavus produce significant quantities of aflatoxin (mycotoxin), which are toxic to mammals. For more information on aflatoxin, refer to the Aflatoxin BARS.

Host Range: Mammals including: humans, cows, dolphins, birds, horses, others; plants including: corn, peanuts, tree nuts, others.

Host Shedding: Fungus may be detectable in clinical samples; Aspergillus spp. are not transmissible between human hosts.

Route of Exposure to Humans: Aerosol/Inhalation

Infectious Dose: Unknown                        Incubation Period: May vary from 2 days to 3 months.

Health Hazards

Signs and symptoms of infection may include:

  • Respiratory symptoms (i.e. coughing sneezing)

Immunizations: None available                             Prophylaxis*Fungal Diseases

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

Agent Viability 

Survival Outside Host Disinfection Inactivation

Conidia are generally heat-resistant and can survive in soil and decomposing vegetation.

1:10 Bleach Dilution. Hold for 20 minutes before drain disposal.

Autoclave at 121°C (250°F), no less than 30 minutes once the autoclave is at pressure and temperature. Time will be dependent on steam penetration.

All autoclave cycle settings should be validated using a chemical steam integrator and biological indicator.

For more guidance on disinfection, see: disinfectant selection.

Laboratory Hazards 

  • High energy-creating activities (centrifugation, sonication, high pressure systems, vortexing, tube cap popping)
  • Splash/droplet-creating activities (shaking incubators, liquid culturing, mechanical pipetting)
  • Equipment contamination

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

Laboratory Handling Guidelines 

Laboratory Biosafety Level (BSL): BSL-2


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

Waste Management: Regulated Medical Waste (RMW)

Shipping Guidance: Refer to EHS Biological Materials Shipping

Animal Vivarium Guidance

Animal Housing Biosafety Level (ABSL):  ABSL-2

Animal Biosecurity: Information not available      

To determine where inoculations and cage changes should be performed, please contact EHS Biosafety.

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 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 supervisor and complete the EHS online injury/illness report  as soon as possible.

Medical Follow-Up:

  • Seek medical evaluation with a local primary care provider or urgent care. Cornell Health does not see employees for post-exposure care. Students will need an appointment if they want to be seen at Cornell Health. 
  • 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. Aspergillus spp Pathogen Safety Data Sheet. Public Health Agency of Canada