Inactivation and Survival of Hepatitis C Virus on Inanimate Surfaces

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(See the editorial commentary by Hagan, on pages 1819–21 and the brief report by Thibault et al, on pages 1839–42.)

Background. Hepatitis C virus (HCV) cross-contamination from inanimate surfaces or objects has been implicated in transmission of HCV in health-care settings and among injection drug users. We established HCV-based carrier and drug transmission assays that simulate practical conditions to study inactivation and survival of HCV on inanimate surfaces.

Methods. Studies were performed with authentic cell culture derived viruses. HCV was dried on steel discs and biocides were tested for their virucidal efficacy against HCV. Infectivity was determined by a limiting dilution assay. HCV stability was analyzed in a carrier assay for several days or in a drug transmission assay using a spoon as cooker.

Results. HCV can be dried and recovered efficiently in the carrier assay. The most effective alcohol to inactivate the virus was 1-propanol, and commercially available disinfectants reduced infectivity of HCV to undetectable levels. Viral infectivity on inanimate surfaces was detectable in the presence of serum for up to 5 days, and temperatures of about 65–70°C were required to eliminate infectivity in the drug transmission assay.

Conclusions. These findings are important for assessment of HCV transmission risks and should facilitate the definition of stringent public health interventions to prevent HCV infections.

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