University Animal Care

Compassion for Animals, Hope for People

Environmental Quality Monitoring Program

University Animal Care Pathology Services performs quality assurance (QA) testing for all animal facilities at the University of Arizona. Quality Assurance refers to a set of planned systematic actions necessary to provide evidence that procedures are being performed effectively. There are two main components to the UAC QA program:

  1. The animal health monitoring program - surveillance for infectious and non-infectious disease in research animals and
  2. The environmental quality assurance program (EQAP) - surveillance of environmental variables that can impact research animals.

The EQAP includes periodic assessment of sterilization/sanitization procedures (for animal caging and rooms), husbandry supplies (drinking water, food, bedding), and ambient room environment (temperature, humidity, air flow, lighting) as well as a system to detect vermin in the facility (insects and feral rodents). Through routine monitoring of these components, the EQAP enables detection and prompt correction of physical plant, equipment, or procedural deficiencies that arise within the animal facilities. The EQAP therefore ensures both a high quality of animal care and the integrity of the data generated from the research animals.

Sterilization/sanitization procedures:  Steam sterilizing machines, or autoclaves, incorporate a combination of steam, time and temperature to sterilize equipment and supplies (to inactivate all bacteria, viruses, fungi, spores). Both chemical and biological indicators are used to determine if autoclaves reach the correct combination of the parameters necessary to ensure sterilization. Steam sterilization integrators (a chemical indicator) are placed within the autoclave external to wrapped packages and, along with standard autoclave tape, provide assessment of each individual autoclave load. These indicators develop a colorimetric change that can be assessed immediately following autoclaving to determine whether sterilization was achieved. Biological indicators (BI) are used to determine whether sterilization is achieved inside wrapped packages or water bottles. Each BI contains spores of a heat-resistant bacterium such as Geobacillus stearothermophilus. If the autoclave does not achieve conditions necessary for sterilization, the spores will germinate upon subsequent incubation at 37°C and their metabolism induces an easily seen pH-dependent color change. Each autoclave in each animal facility is tested monthly with BIs. In addition, each time new configurations of wrapped packages are evaluated multiple BIs and steam integrators are placed throughout the load to ensure that adequate steam penetration and sterilization occurs.

Sanitization QA includes assessment of cage washer function and room decontamination procedures. Each cage wash cycle produces a digital or tape readout that is evaluated to ensure that target temperature and time duration is achieved. In addition, cage washer efficacy is evaluated quarterly for biological load through ATP swabs. The swab is applied to environmental surfaces of various types of caging, racks, or other husbandry equipment. Objective parameters are used to determine adequate sanitization. ATP swabs are also used to routinely assess sanitization of surgery facilities and animal room surfaces after disinfection via fogging.

Husbandry supplies:  Food and bedding are purchased only from reliable commercial vendor sources that provide QA reports indicating nutritional, microbial, and chemical levels are within acceptable limits. Periodically UAC Pathology Services will assess these supplies for microbial levels as appropriate. UA Facilities Management performs routine assessments of potable water sources at the University for microbial, chemical, and toxic contaminants. In addition, the main source of potable water at each animal facility is evaluated biweekly for microbial contamination through a filtration culture technique. These sources include the reverse osmosis (RO) generator at the UAHS and BIO5 facilities.

Animal room environment: Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems and lighting are routinely monitored. Air flow in each animal room is assessed weekly as positive (from inside the room towards the corridor) or negative (from the corridor into the animal room) to ensure positive airflow in rooms that require bioexclusion (e.g. sterile, immunodeficient rodents) and negative airflow in rooms that require biocontainment (e.g. biohazards present). Room air exchange rates and airflows are also evaluated periodically through more precise instrumentation such as balometers and Velicocalc digital analyzers. Environmental temperature and relative humidity (current reading and the past 24 hour range of highest/lowest readings) are checked daily by room technicians using digital hygrometers, with the EQAP periodically confirming the accuracy of hygrometers with the more sensitive, calibrated Velicocalc analyzer. Lighting is assessed after hours on a monthly basis to ensure light timers are functioning properly to provide the desired photoperiod. In addition, light intensity is periodically assessed with a luminometer to ensure levels meet established guidelines.

Vermin: A program designed to prevent, control and eliminate infestation by pests are essential in a research animal environment. Weekly monitoring of adhesive traps located strategically throughout each animal facility is performed along with quarterly inspection and control in collaboration with a local pest control company. If needed, the use of pesticides is strictly regulated inside the animal facility with no direct application within animal holding rooms.

The Environmental Quality Assurance Program is a vital part of University Animal Care which ensures the integrity of the animal research completed at our university. It is a vital link between our husbandry section and our researchers to validate the procedures and research studies being performed. If you need assistance please visit our website or contact a husbandry coordinator at uac-coordinators@list.arizona.edu