Reproductive Hazards in Animal Research

Working in animal research can expose potential reproductive hazards to the research community for women, men, the developing fetus, and children at home. This page addresses some of these risks.

If you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant and are concerned with working animals in research, please contact Occupational Medicine for a consultation about the risks and mitigation options.

Zoonotic Disease Risks

Zoonotic diseases can pose additional risks to those who are pregnant.  View the entries below to see which animals are common carriers of the disease, symptoms of the disease, prevention measures, and the pregnancy risks.

Coxiella burnetti (Q fever)

  • Animal Carriers: Sheep, goats, cattle
  • Symptoms: Fever, chills, retrobulbar (behind the eye) headache, weakness, malaise, profuse sweating
  • Prevention: Appropriate use and disposal of protective clothing. Use of disinfectants for cleaning. Avoid pregnant sheep.
  • Pregnancy Risk: Risk for miscarriage, stillbirth, pre-term delivery, or low infant birth weight
  • Additional Information: Center for Disease Control Q Fever page
  • UW – Q-fever on the farm guidance document

Listeria monocytogenes (Listeriosis)

  • Animal Carriers: Livestock
  • Symptoms: Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, influenza-like symptoms
  • Prevention: Avoid cleaning livestock manure. Wash hands thoroughly with soap and water after contact.
  • Pregnancy Risk: Miscarriages, Still birth, and preterm labor
  • Additional Information: Center for Disease Control Listeria page

Lymphocytic Choriomeningitis Virus (LCMV)

  • Animal Carriers: House mice, hamsters, guinea pigs
  • Symptoms: Fever, headache, neck stiffness, fatigue, lack of appetite, muscle aches, nausea, vomiting
  • Prevention: Avoid cleaning cages. Wash hands thoroughly with soap and water after contact. Keep rodents away from face. Avoid contact with wild rodents.
  • Pregnancy Risk: Can cause severe birth defects or loss of pregnancy
  • Additional Information: Center for Disease Control LCMV page



  • Animal carriers: Cats
  • Symptoms:  Muscle aches, headaches, swollen glands, flu-like symptoms (fever, sore throat, fatigue)
  • Prevention: Do not clean out litter boxes. Avoid interacting stray cats. Wash hands thoroughly with soap and water after animal or waste contact
  • Pregnancy Risk:  Can cause birth defects or loss of pregnancy. May not have any symptoms but has 1 in 2 chance of passing the illness to her baby
  • Additional information: Center for Disease Control Toxoplasmosis page

Chemical Hazards

Many of the chemicals used in animal research can present a reproductive hazard risk. Chemical hazards should be listed in the animal protocol and include the precautions needed for use and PPE required.

Common Chemical Hazards (including those that are reproductive hazards) can be found on this page.

  • Isoflurane – commonly used anesthetic in animal research. Use within a fume hood is highly recommended. In particular, nose cones, induction boxes and the charcoal canister should be within the fume hood or ducted BSC.
  • Reproductive hormones – If powder form is used, then that preparation should be done in a fume hood.

Biological Safety Hazards

Some biological safety hazards used in research may have additional reproductive hazard risks. These will be addressed in both the animal protocol and in the Biological Safety Protocol. Additional PPE and engineering protections may be required for these hazards.


Reproductive Hazards in Research is an optional training available for anyone on campus who is a significant other, currently pregnant or considering becoming pregnant.


Carrie Ensrud
Animal Research Safety Manager