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J Hosp Infect. 2000 Sep;46(1):61-6.

Transmission of viruses via contact in ahousehold setting: experiments using bacteriophage straight phiX174 as a model virus.

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  • 1Henkel-Ecolab, Düsseldorf, Germany.


Contamination of the environment with pathogens is the prerequisite for contact infections. The aim of this study was to elucidate how viruses can be transmitted from a primary contact person to further individuals. Bacteriophage straight phiX174 was chosen as a model virus. In its stability straight phiX174 is comparable with the most resistant human pathogenic viruses, e.g. polio- or parvoviruses. About 10(7)pfu were applied to exposed contact points such as door handles or the hands of volunteers. After touching of these handles and common social contacts like hand shaking, re-isolation rates were determined from the hands of our test persons. Contaminated door handles and skin surfaces were found to be efficient sources for potential infection. At least 14 persons could be contaminated by horizontal spread, one after the other by touching the same door handle. Successive transmission from one person to another could be followed up to the sixth contact person. These results were confirmed under everyday life conditions in a flat shared by four students. The transmission could not be prevented by the usual standards of hand hygiene, practised in this household. straight phiX174 could be reisolated after 24h from the hands of all persons tested even after normal use and cleaning of their hands. This might be improved by the use of liquid soap dispensers.

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