Transmission of viruses via contact in ahousehold setting: experiments using bacteriophage φX174 as a model virus

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      Abstract

      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 φX174 was chosen as a model virus. In its stability φX174 is comparable with the most resistant human pathogenic viruses, e.g. polio- or parvoviruses. About 107pfu 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. φX174 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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