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J Food Prot. 2012 Dec;75(12):2151-7. doi: 10.4315/0362-028X.JFP-12-197.

Persistence of Norwalk virus, male-specific coliphage, and Escherichia coli on stainless steel coupons and in phosphate-buffered saline.

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Center for Global Safe Water, Hubert Department of Global Health, Rollins School of Public Health, Emory University, Atlanta, GA 30322, USA.


Human noroviruses (NoVs) are a leading cause of acute gastroenteritis and are frequently transmitted by contaminated food, water, hands, and environmental surfaces. Little is known about their environmental stability and/or which alternative microorganisms can serve as effective surrogates. To examine whether Escherichia coli and male-specific coliphage MS2 can be appropriate surrogates for NoVs, approximately 6.8 log genomic equivalent copies of Norwalk virus (NV), and 6.0 to 6.5 log PFU or CFU of MS2 and E. coli, respectively, were inoculated onto stainless steel coupons and held at 4°C, room temperature (RT), or 37°C over a period of 75 min (E. coli and MS2) to 4 weeks. These three microorganisms were also seeded into phosphate-buffered saline (PBS) and sampled at different time intervals for up to 6 weeks. MS2 and E. coli survived approximately 15 min at 37°C, 45 min at RT, and 60 min at 4°C on the stainless steel surfaces. In contrast, NV RNA titers were reduced by only 2.4 log at 37°C, 1.5 log at RT, and 0.9 log at 4°C after 4 weeks. MS2 and E. coli were able to survive at least 5 weeks in PBS at 4°C and RT, and NV was stable in PBS at 4°C and RT for at least 6 weeks. However, E. coli, MS2, and NV were completely inactivated after 1-, 4-, and 5-week incubations in PBS at 37°C, respectively. These findings indicate that NoVs are highly persistent on environmental surfaces and in PBS solution at different temperatures. While E. coli does not appear to be an appropriate surrogate for NoVs, MS2 could be more relevant for modeling the environmental persistence of NoVs under wet conditions, but not under dry conditions.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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