Environmental Health & Safety

University of Colorado Boulder


Vivarium Risks from Researchers and Staff Who Have Household Pets

This Environmental Health & Safety guideline documentation is intended for researchers and laboratory personnel.

Revised as of October 21, 2014


Exposure to pet rodents or rodents used as food for other pets (e.g. feeder mice used for a pet boa constrictor) is a known risk factor for the introduction of rodent diseases to research rodent colonies. Personnel who have this type of direct exposure to rodents outside of work must wash their hands and forearms well at the start of the day before entering the animal facility, should wear proper PPE, and should change their PPE regularly.   They should not be wearing their “street clothes” or shoes from home into the vivarium when they need to handle animals. Animal researchers and staff should try to maintain clothes and shoes for use solely in the vivarium and should routinely launder these in hot water and dry them on a hot drier cycle.

Our institutional veterinarian routinely screens rodent colonies for pathogens of concern  via observation or diagnostic testing of sentinel rodents, and advises the culling of colony rodents when necessary for colony health. Routine screening is intended to identify the presence of pathogens of concern as quickly as possible, and limit their impact and spread. The institutional veterinarian maintains records to monitor potential spread if a communicable disease is detected in sentinel animals. Importantly, even robust routine surveillance may take weeks or months to detect the introduction of a pathogen of concern, so following procedures is vital to containing infections before they are detected.

The use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and attention to procedures and personnel and material flow, is valuable in limiting the spread of a pathogen of concern should one be introduced. In addition, the use of PPE limits personnel exposure to allergens and experimentally induced infections. Opening a cage and handling the rodents is the highest risk activity routinely performed. It is vital that proper procedures for using change stations and biosafety cabinets are followed to limit introduction of pathogens into a cage or spread from one cage to another.

The pathogens of concern include the following for rodents:

Mouse Pathogens Abbreviations

Mouse parvovirus MPV
Minute virus of mice MVM
Polyoma virus POLY
Mouse hepatitis virus MHV
Theiler’s murine encephalomyelitis virus GDVII/TMEV
Epizootic diarrhea of infant mice (rotavirus) EDIM
Sendai virus SEND
Pneumonia virus of mice PVM
Reovirus REO
K virus K
Lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus LCMV
Mouse adenovirus (1, 2) MAV, MAD1, MAD2
Ectromelia (mouse poxvirus) ECTRO
Mycoplasma pulmonis MPUL
Clostridium piliforme (Tyzzer’s Disease) CPIL

Rat Pathogens of Concern Abbreviations

Rat parvovirus RPV
H‐1 parvovirus H‐1
Kilham rat virus (parvovirus) KRV
Rat Minute Virus (parvovirus) RMV
Sendai virus SEND
Pneumonia virus of mice PVM
Sialodacryoadenitis virus (coronavirus) SDA
Reovirus REO
Lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus LCMV
Theiler’s murine encephalomyelitis virus GDVII/TMEV
Mycoplasma pulmonis MPUL
Cilia associated respiratory bacillus CARB

In addition to introducing rodent, reptile, dog and cat pathogens, the pet owner may be subject to, or can spread, several other pathogens that actually my impact other humans.  Some concerning pathogens that can cause problems for humans include: Spirillium minus, Streptobacillus moniliformis, Campylobacter, LCMV, Pateurella multocida (fm cats), MRSA  and MSSA (fm cats and dogs), P. canis (fm dogs), and Salmonella and Cryptosporidiosis (fm reptiles).