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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Safety Considerations for Handling Large Numbers of Imported Fire Ants (Solenopsis SPP.) in the Laboratory and Field

Authors
item Vogt, James
item Kozlovac, Joseph

Submitted to: Applied Biosafety
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: November 30, 2005
Publication Date: July 11, 2006
Citation: Vogt, J.T., and Kozlovac, J.P. Suggested personal protective equipment and other considerations for handling large numbers of imported fire ants (Solenopsis spp.) in the laboratory and field. Applied Biosafety. 11: 88-97. 2006

Interpretive Summary: Imported fire ant venom puts workers who come into contact with the ants at risk for a rare but potentially life-threatening allergic reaction. ARS researchers used information compiled from published reports, colleagues, and personal experience to formulate recommendations for standard operating procedures and personal protective equipment to avoid exposure to stings and potential allergens while working with fire ants. These recommendations will enhance safety of day-to-day laboratory and field operations for researchers in government, industry, and academia.

Technical Abstract: Imported fire ants pose two primary threats to humans: the risk of anaphylaxis following stings, and the potential for secondary infection of localized pustules that result from stings. Additionally, fire ant products such as whole-body extract and venom can present risks to laboratory personnel. Whether in concentrated form in the laboratory or retained within the living animal, fire ant venom alkaloids and proteins are biological toxins with potentially severe health effects. Several recommendations are given for minimizing the risk of stings in the laboratory and field with the understanding that most experienced workers are capable of assessing their own tolerance to stings and acting accordingly. Since there are no fail-safe methods for avoiding fire ant stings, all workers who are exposed to imported fire ants should be familiar with the symptoms of anaphylaxis and be prepared to seek immediate medical assistance if they or their co-workers are stung and show symptoms of hypersensitivity.

Last Modified: 11/23/2014
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