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Chlamydia pneumoniae 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
Bacterium RG-2 BSL-2 ABSL-2

Agent Characteristics 

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

Agent Type: Bacterium

Description: Chlamydia pneumoniae is a gram-negative, intracellular bacterial pathogen. C. pnemoniae is a very common respiratory pathogen and about 80% of the adult population in the world has been infected. In addition to respiratory infections in humans, there is a growing body of evidence that infection is associated with atherosclerosis and stroke myocarditis, multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer's disease. This pathogen is of concern in the laboratory because infection can result from accidental parenteral inoculation as well as direct and indirect exposure of mucous membranes to cell culture materials and fluids from infected cell cultures, eggs, and animals. Infectious aerosol produced by laboratory procedures can also pose a risk of infection. 

Host Range: humans, amphibians, reptiles, and marsupials     Host Shedding: saliva, direct contact

Routes of Exposure to Humans: aerosol/inhalation, direct contact, mucous membranes, contaminated items

Infectious Dose: Unknown                                 Incubation Period: 3 to 4 weeks

Health Hazards

Signs and symptoms of infection may include:

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

Immunizations: None available                            Prophylaxis*: Antibiotics available

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

Agent Viability 

Survival Outside Host Disinfection Inactivation

C. pneumoniae can survive on countertops for up to 30 hours

1:10 Bleach Dilution (30+ seconds)

Other disinfectants

Autoclave for 30 minutes 

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: Laboratory-associated infections with C. pneumoniae have been reported. The route of infection was attributed to inhalation of droplet aerosols created during procedures associated with culture and harvest of the agent from cell culture.

Laboratory Handling Guidelines 

Laboratory Biosafety Level (BSL): BSL-2

Training Lab Engineering Controls Personal Protective Equipment
  • Pants and closed-toed shoes
  • 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.  

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 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. 2009. Biosafety in Microbiological and Biomedical Laboratories. Center for Disease Control and Prevention
  2. CDC. 2019. Chlamydia pneumoniae Infection. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  3. Mitchell, C. M., Hutton, S., Myers, G. S., Brunham, R., & Timms, P. (2010). Chlamydia pneumoniae is genetically diverse in animals and appears to have crossed the host barrier to humans on (at least) two occasions. PLoS Pathogens, 6(5), e1000903. 

  4. Marrie, T. (2017). Chlamydia pneumoniae (Chlamydophila). Infectious Disease Advisor.