If somebody kept their shoes in a china cupboard or prepared a cream cake in the bathroom (directly beside the hairbrush and razor), most people would find it unhygienic. We are used to our living room and other rooms being used for particular activities.
The kitchen is not used in the same way as a bathroom or bedroom. The rooms are also furnished differently. There are smooth surfaces in the kitchen and bathroom which can be cleaned easily with a wet cloth, whereas the living room and bedrooms are often fitted with carpets and textiles. A vacuum cleaner normally gets the job done without the use of water.
The situation in a pharmaceutical company is similar. Here, too, there is a practical division of the rooms into defined areas (hygiene zones, cleanliness zones) based on their function and hygiene status – the zone concept. Manufacturing and packaging rooms usually have a higher cleanliness class than storage rooms, quality control rooms, ancillary areas and offices.
The different types of hygiene zones differ in the following areas:
Open products require clothing that provides greater protection. Always wear all of the required hygiene clothing and wear it correctly.
Particularly strict requirements apply to sterile or aseptic manufacturing processes for medicinal products. Even the slightest contamination of these dosage forms can threaten the lives of patients. For this reason, these medicinal products may only be manufactured in special clean rooms.
The individual manufacturing steps for these products must be carried out and monitored in clean rooms with a clearly defined cleanliness class. The number and size of dust particles and microorganisms in the room air and on surfaces is determined when classifying a clean room. Different names are used for all four clean room classes.
The FDA uses numbers (classes 100000, 10000, 1000 and 100), whereas the EU guidelines use the letters D, C, B and A. Class D rooms are used, for example, to prepare solutions that can be sterilised at a later stage, whereas class A or class 100 rooms (the highest clean room class) are used when particularly sensitive products are filled: members of staff are not allowed to be present during the process. This clean room class can be achieved using isolators. Isolators are chambers that isolate filling systems completely from the environment. The filling systems can only be accessed from outside using grippers, integrated gloves (glove-box systems) or half suits. Because these systems offer optimum protection for both product and operating personnel, they are also suitable for highly potent active ingredients (extremely small amounts of these substances put employees at risk).
If complete isolation of the system is not required or not possible, the components of the system used to fill an open product are protected by blowing specially filtered air across them (laminar flow, i.e. an airflow that does not create eddies). In the case of so-called RABS concepts (restricted access barrier system), the filling system is not isolated completely from the environment, but there is an extremely low risk of contamination caused by personnel because the system can only be accessed using integrated sleeve/glove systems.
Special cabinets are used for manual tasks that have to be carried out under clean room conditions. Laminar flow air is drawn into the cabinet through a high-performance filter. Clean benches or LF benches are used if the focus is on product protection. Biosafety cabinets have to be used when the protection of personnel is also necessary, e.g. when processing cytostatics or highly active substances.
Adjacent hygiene zones must be protected by locks to ensure that dirt, dust and bacteria cannot be transferred into clean rooms by materials or personnel entering or leaving the hygiene zone. Locks are closed rooms with at least two doors, located between rooms of different clean room classes. They are used to prevent contamination.
However, locks only function if all persons change their clothing and wash or disinfect their hands every time they move from one zone to another. This also applies to technicians, external service personnel, managers, visitors and inspectors.
To ensure that the hygiene clothing does not get dirty when dressing, e.g. because it comes in contact with the floor or with street clothes, gowning must be trained, practised and carried out exactly as described in the relevant SOP. The sequence for putting on clothing, shoes, hair covers or head cover hoods, washing and disinfecting hands and putting on gloves must be followed exactly. Clean room clothing should never be worn outside the clean room.
Interlocking systems (often with indicator lights or acoustic signals) prevent the doors of the lock being used simultaneously and ensure that contaminated air cannot enter a room with a higher cleanliness class.
Containers and packaging of equipment, materials and tools must be cleaned from dust and dirt in material locks. If required, outer packaging (cardboard or foil) even must be be removed or disinfected. Products are often transferred from wooden pallets to pallets made of plastic, aluminium or stainless steel. All materials that are transferred into clean rooms with a B/A class undergo sterilisation, sterile filtration or disinfection, at least.
Locks are used to block as many dust particles and microorganisms as possible.
Christine Oechslein, PhD
GMP practice, Bad Säckingen
This text is an excerpt from the step-by-step guide GMP Fundamentals
What is GMP? Why do we need GMP? Who is allowed to manufacture medicinal products?
You will find answers to these and many more questions on GMP in this easy-to-read guideline. It gives you a quick and comprehensive overview of the complex world of Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP). Some topics are: