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Staphylococcus epidermidis Biological Agent Reference Sheet (BARS)

Updated November 30th, 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-1 BSL-1 ABSL-1

Agent Characteristics 

Risk Group: RG-1 not associated with disease in healthy human adults

Agent Type: Bacteria 

Description: Gram positive, part of normal human flora and less commonly the mucosal flora. Not usually pathogenic, but those with compromised immune systems are at risk of developing infection. A frequent contaminant of clinical samples sent to diagnostic laboratories. S epidermidis has the ability to form biofilms on plastic devices, creating a nosocomial risk.

Host Range: Humans, other mammals                           Host Shedding: Direct contact, Nasal/mucosal secretions                 

Route of Exposure to Humans: Direct contact, Mucous Membranes, Percutaneous

Infectious Dose: Unknown                                         Incubation Period: Unknown

Health Hazards

Signs and symptoms of infection may include:

Immunizations: None available                           Prophylaxis*: None Available

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

Agent Viability 

Survival Outside Host Disinfection

Can survive on abiotic surfaces usually in the presence of existing biofilms to which it can attach. Good housekeeping and disinfection practices are key in labs handling this organism.

 1:10 Bleach Dilution

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
  • Exposed skin/uncovered wounds

Laboratory Acquired Infection (LAI) History: Not available

Laboratory Handling Guidelines 

Laboratory Biosafety Level (BSL): BSL-1


Lab Engineering Controls Personal Protective Equipment
  • 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-1

Animal Biosecurity: None

Perform InoculationsBiosafety Cabinet

Change CagesBiosafety 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 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:

  • 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. Otto, M. Staphylococcus epidermidis: The accidental pathogen. Nat Rev Microbiol. 2009 Aug; 7(8): 555-567. doi: 10.1038/nrmicro2182