What’s the proper policy?

The semiannual inspection of animal housing and use areas at Great Eastern University went smoothly and the IACUC diligently followed up to assure that the few problems that were found had been corrected in the time frame set by the committee. The only remaining difficulty was with the Reinhold lab, where the inspectors had found surgical packs that had been sterilized a year ago by autoclaving but never re-sterilized. The IACUC considered this a potential threat to the health of the animals and therefore a significant deficiency. The committee informed the lab, verbally and in writing, that unused surgical packs must be re-sterilized every six months. However, Dr. Jan Reinhold responded that the policy of his lab was that sterilized but unopened and uncontaminated surgical packs could be kept indefinitely before use, as per published government guidelines1. The IACUC then gave Reinhold the written policy of the school’s Department of Animal Resources, which was developed by that department’s lab animal veterinarians and approved by the IACUC, and which clearly stated that unopened surgical packs must be re-sterilized every six months. After reading the policy Reinhold said that if Animal Resources wished to re-sterilize surgical packs every six months, that was fine with him; however, a policy that was approved by the IACUC for the Department of Animal Resources was not a general IACUC policy for the school and therefore it was not binding on his department or his laboratory. “Look,” said Reinhold, “my lab keeps good medical records and your inspectors checked them and found no problems with surgical infections. And if there is scientific literature supporting our policy, why are you telling us we have to follow the policy of another department whose policy is based on opinion and nothing more.”

The IACUC has many options to consider. How would you approach this issue?


  1. 1.

    Rutala, W.A., Weber, D.J. and the Healthcare Infection Control Practices Advisory Committee (HICPAC). Guideline for disinfection and sterilization in healthcare facilities (2008). https://www.cdc.gov/infectioncontrol/guidelines/disinfection/

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Correspondence to Jerald Silverman.

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Silverman, J. What’s the proper policy?. Lab Anim 47, 297 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41684-018-0176-7

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