Isolators provide the most effective protection against the spread of infectious agents, whether used as a barrier to protect an animal in the isolator, even to the point of maintaining "germ-free" or gnotobiotic animals, or for containment to protect the macroenvironment (room) from biohazards in the isolator. They are of two basic types: flexible film isolators and rigid wall isolators (Figures 8.30 and 8.31). The original germ-free isolators were rigid stainless steel cylinders, but most rigid isolators in use today are made with clear polycarbonate. Currently, most isolators are made from transparent poly-vinyl-chloride (PVC) flexible plastic sheeting supported by a metal or plastic frame and positive pressure air, and rigid isolators from stainless steel or polycarbonate. HEPA-filtered air is blown into the isolator, and when used for containment, the air coming from the isolator is also HEPA filtered. Isolators come in many sizes. In effect, the isolator is a room within a room that can be provided with sterile air, water, diet, cages, and bottles, etc., minimizing the risk of contaminating animals with infectious agents from outside the isolator. Personnel work inside the isolators through portholes fitted with sleeves and gloves made of latex or other similar material. There is a well-established system involving equipment and procedures designed for moving sterile materials into the isolator and soiled materials and trash out of the isolator.

Figure 8.30 Flexible film isolator. The isolator in the photo has a large square entrance port, which is easier to load than the more common circular ports.
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