How stable is the hepatitis C virus (HCV)? Environmental stability of HCV and its susceptibility to chemical biocides

Sandra Ciesek, Martina Friesland, Jörg Steinmann, Britta Becker, Heiner Wedemeyer, Michael P Manns, Jochen Steinmann, Thomas Pietschmann, Eike Steinmann
Journal of Infectious Diseases 2010 June 15, 201 (12): 1859-66

BACKGROUND: In the absence of a cell culture system for propagation of the hepatitis C virus (HCV), the antiviral activity of disinfectants against HCV was extrapolated from studies with the bovine viral diarrhea virus. The recent development of an HCV infection system allowed the direct assessment of environmental stability and susceptibility to chemical disinfectants.

METHODS: Studies were performed using cell-culture grown HCV. Infectivity was determined by limiting dilutions. HCV RNA levels were analyzed by quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction. Genome stability was determined by transfection of recovered RNA into Huh7.5 cells and immunostaining.

RESULTS: HCV infectivity in a liquid environment was detectable for up to 5 month at lower temperatures. The risk of HCV infections may not accurately be reflected by determination of HCV RNA levels, because viral infectivity and HCV RNA copy numbers did not directly correlate. Different alcohols and commercially available antiseptics reduced the infectivity of HCV to undetectable levels. However, diluting the hand disinfectants abrogated the virucidal activity.

CONCLUSIONS: This study assessed the environmental stability and susceptibility to chemical biocides of HCV. The results should be useful in defining rigorous disinfection protocols to prevent nosocomial transmission of HCV.

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