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J Infect Dis. 2010 Oct 1;202(7):984-90. doi: 10.1086/656212.

Survival of hepatitis C virus in syringes: implication for transmission among injection drug users.

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Department of Pediatrics, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut 06520, USA.



We hypothesized that the high prevalence of hepatitis C virus (HCV) among injection drug users might be due to prolonged virus survival in contaminated syringes.


We developed a microculture assay to examine the viability of HCV. Syringes were loaded with blood spiked with HCV reporter virus (Jc1/GLuc2A) to simulate 2 scenarios of residual volumes: low void volume (2 microL) for 1-mL insulin syringes and high void volume (32 microL) for 1-mL tuberculin syringes. Syringes were stored at 4 degrees C, 22 degrees C, and 37 degrees C for up to 63 days before testing for HCV infectivity by using luciferase activity.


The virus decay rate was biphasic (t1/2alpha= 0.4 h and t1/2beta = 28 hh). Insulin syringes failed to yield viable HCV beyond day 1 at all storage temperatures except 4 degrees , in which 5% of syringes yielded viable virus on day 7. Tuberculin syringes yielded viable virus from 96%, 71%, and 52% of syringes after storage at 4 degrees, 22 degrees, and 37 degrees for 7 days, respectively, and yielded viable virus up to day 63.


The high prevalence of HCV among injection drug users may be partly due to the resilience of the virus and the syringe type. Our findings may be used to guide prevention strategies.

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