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Hepatitis C Virus Can Remain Viable for Months in a Liquid Environment at Low Temperatures

SUMMARY: Hepatitis C virus (HCV) can survive and remain infectious in a liquid environment for up to 5 months at cool temperatures, according to a German study described in the June 15, 2010 Journal of Infectious Diseases. Various alcohols and antiseptics reduced HCV RNA to undetectable levels, but the antiviral effect diminished when hand disinfectants were diluted.

By Liz Highleyman

Sandra Ciesek and colleagues looked at the infectivity, environmental stability, and susceptibility to chemical disinfectants of HCV grown in laboratory cell cultures.

Until recently, HCV could not be grown in laboratory cultures, so the antiviral activity of disinfectants against HCV was estimated based on studies using the structurally similar bovine viral diarrhea virus, the investigators noted as background. But the recent development of an HCV infection model system has allowed direct assessment.

The study authors analyzed HCV RNA levels using quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR). Genome stability was determined by introducing recovered viral RNA into Huh7.5 cells.


HCV infectivity in a liquid environment was detectable for up to 5 months at lower temperatures.
Different alcohols and commercially available antiseptics reduced HCV to undetectable levels.
Diluting hand disinfectants reduced their virucidal activity.

The researchers noted that the risk of HCV infection may not be accurately gauged by determining HCV RNA levels, since viral infectivity and viral load copy numbers did not directly correlate.

The results, they suggested, "should be useful in defining rigorous disinfection protocols to prevent nosocomial transmission of HCV" in healthcare settings.

Investigator affiliations: Division of Experimental Virology, Twincore, Centre for Experimental and Clinical Infection Research, Joint venture between Hannover Medical School and the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research; Department of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Endocrinology, Hannover Medical School, Hannover, Germany; Institute of Medical Microbiology, University Hospital Essen, Essen, Germany; MikroLab, Bremen, Germany.


S Ciesek, M Friesland, J Steinmann, and others. How stable is the hepatitis C virus (HCV)? Environmental stability of HCV and its susceptibility to chemical biocides. Journal of Infectious Diseases 201(12): 1859-1866 (Abstract). June 15, 2010.






















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