Hepatitis C - contamination of toothbrushes: myth or reality?

G Lock, M Dirscherl, F Obermeier, C M Gelbmann, C Hellerbrand, A Knöll, J Schölmerich, W Jilg
Journal of Viral Hepatitis 2006, 13 (9): 571-3
Chronic hepatitis C patients are advised not to share toothbrushes, razors, nail-scissors or other personal articles that potentially may have been in contact with blood, with others. This study examines the contamination of toothbrushes in patients with chronic hepatitis C as a model for a possible unconventional way of transmission. In 30 patients with chronic hepatitis C, 2 mL of saliva (before and after toothbrushing) and the toothbrush rinsing water after toothbrushing were tested for HCV-RNA. Saliva before and after toothbrushing was positive for HCV-RNA in nine (30%) and 11 patients (36.7%), respectively. Twelve of the toothbrush rinsing water specimens (40%) tested HCV-RNA-positive. In six of these 12 patients, the 'native' saliva had been negative for HCV-RNA. Patients with HCV-RNA-positive toothbrush rinsing water showed no significant differences from those with negative rinsing water with respect to certain clinical, biochemical and virological parameters. In conclusion, our study demonstrates a contamination with HCV-RNA of a considerable portion of toothbrushes used by hepatitis C patients, suggesting at least a theoretical risk of infection by sharing these objects and strengthening the recommendations to take care of a clear separation of these personal care objects between patients and their household members.

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