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To determine effect of environmental exposure on the survival and infectivity of hepatitis C virus (HCV).
Three aliquots of chimpanzee plasma containing HCV and proven infectious HCV inoculum were dried and stored at room temperature, 1 aliquot for 16 hours, 1 for 4 days, and 1 for 7 days. A chimpanzee (CH247) was sequentially inoculated intravenously with each of these experimental inocula, beginning with the material stored for 7 days. Each inoculation was separated by at least 18 weeks of follow-up to monitor for infection. The concentration of HCV RNA was measured and quasi species were sequenced for each experimental inoculum and in serum samples from CH247.
Evidence of HCV infection developed in CH247 only after inoculation with the material stored for 16 hours. No infection occurred after inoculation with the material stored for 7 days or 4 days. Compared with the original infectious chimpanzee plasma, the concentration of HCV RNA was 1 log lower in all 3 experimental inocula. The same predominant sequences were found in similar proportions in the original chimpanzee plasma and in the experimental inocula, as well as in serum samples from CH247.
HCV in plasma can survive drying and environmental exposure to room temperature for at least 16 hours, which supports the results of recent epidemiologic investigations that implicated blood-contaminated inanimate surfaces, objects, and/or devices as reservoirs for patient-to-patient transmission of HCV. Healthcare professionals in all settings should review their aseptic techniques and infection control practices to ensure that they are being performed in a manner that prevents cross-contamination from such reservoirs.
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