Additional Info - Biosafety


COVID-19/SARS-CoV-2 - Biosafety Guidance & Resources for the Research Community

USF researchers are working to advance our understanding of COVID-19 and the SARS-CoV-2 virus, from basic science to translational medicine to clinical care—as well as to address concerns related to the pandemic from a variety of disciplines. Visit USF’s Coronavirus community news site at

To ensure safety of workforce and to facilitate timely research, please note the following:

All proposed laboratory or clinical based research and activities involving SARS-CoV-2 virus, rDNA or synthetic nucleic acid with viral genome, or with biospecimens containing the virus requires review and Institutional Biosafety Committee (IBC) approval prior to initiating work. A protocol  must be submitted to the IBC through our electronic platform, BiosafetyNet. For more information, visit the Forms and Templates and BiosafetyNet webpages.

Please note, if processing human samples with the intent to identify the suspected or known presence of SARS-CoV-2 or for processing/using samples known or suspected to contain infectious SARS-CoV-2 (e.g., RNA extractions, serum/plasma separation/use, etc.) that is not a part of standard clinical care and is research related, and be conducted in USF lab facilities or areas, the IBC will review such applications.

The USF IBC is conducting online committee protocol reviews. The IBC review schedule has not changed, however if any protocol requires time sensitive review of rapid grants for COVID-19 research, please identify such requests.

Please contact USF Biosafety group at or 813-974-5091 with additional questions.

Ongoing guidance about research activities will be updated when new information becomes available.


Coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that can cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV). SARS-CoV-2 is a new strain that has not been previously identified in humans which causes the disease COVID-19. SARS-CoV-2 is an enveloped, positive-sense RNA virus.

What is a novel coronavirus? The virus causing coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) is novel and is not the same as the coronaviruses that commonly circulate among humans and cause mild illness, like the common cold.

How is the virus spread? Person-to-person transmission (direct mucous membrane contact (eyes, nose, and mouth) with infectious respiratory droplets and/or direct contact with infected body fluids) and/or through exposure to contaminated fomites. The virus preferably spreads via respiratory droplets over a close distance. Other possible modes of transmission include through inhalation of infectious aerosols, blood transfusions, or by sharps injuries. Communicability is at its greatest in severely ill patients or those experiencing rapid clinical deterioration. Transmission usually occurs after onset of clinical signs and symptoms (on or after the 5th day of illness on average), which coincides with peak viral load in nasopharyngeal secretions around the 10th day of illness.

What are the symptoms of COVID-19? People with COVID-19 report a wide range of symptoms, ranging from mild to severe illness. Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus. Anyone can have mild to severe symptoms.

Possible symptoms include:

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough

  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing

  • Fatigue

  • Muscle or body aches

  • Headache

  • Sore throat

  • New loss of taste or smell

  • Congestion or runny nose

  • Nausea or vomiting

  • Diarrhea

This list does not include all possible symptoms. Symptoms may change with new COVID-19 variants and can vary depending on vaccination status. CDC will continue to update this list as we learn more about COVID-19. Older adults and people who have underlying medical conditions like heart or lung disease or diabetes are at higher risk for getting very sick from COVID-19.

Feeling Sick?

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, consider the following options:

Difference Between Flu and COVID-19

Influenza (Flu) and COVID-19 are both contagious respiratory illnesses, but they are caused by different viruses. COVID-19 is caused by infection with a coronavirus named SARS-CoV-2, and flu is caused by infection with influenza viruses. You cannot tell the difference between flu and COVID-19 by symptoms alone because some of the symptoms are the same. Find out more about the differences on the CDC site: Similarities and Differences between Flu and COVID-19.

In order to minimize the spread of COVID-19 or any other virus, the following precautionary measures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) should be followed:

  • Frequent handwashing for at least 20 seconds with soap and water especially after touching any blister or sore, before preparing food and eating, and after using the toilet.
  • Clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains 60 to 95% alcohol, covering all surfaces of your hands and rubbing them together until they feel dry. Note: The use of soap and water hand washing is preferred over alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact (kissing, hugging, sharing utensils, etc.) with those who are sick.
  • Keep those who are sick away from others until they are well.
  • Cover mouth and nose with a tissue when sneezing or coughing.
  • Properly dispose of used tissues and diapers into waste bins that close properly.
  • Maintain general cleanliness.

To ensure the safety of our workforce, as we well as to enhance our ability to facilitate critical research, USF Research Integrity & Compliance (RIC) Biosafety Office is providing laboratory biosafety guidelines for research activities with SARS-CoV-2. Biosafety Containment for work with SARS-CoV-19 depends on the proposed experiments. Some may require BSL-3 and others might require BSL-2 or BSL-2 with enhancements.

SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) Research Laboratory Biosafety Guidelines (PDF)


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

World Health Organization (WHO):

United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA):

American Biological Safety Association (ABSA):

Other Resources: