New Study Shows Dry, Contaminated Objects May Transmit HCV for Weeks
February 24, 2014
An estimated 3.2 million Americans are infected with the hepatitis C virus (HCV). The virus is transmitted from person to person via blood, and in the United States such transmission mainly occurs during sharing of drug injection equipment, although it can also occur during sexual contact or medical procedures. However, research suggests that an increasing proportion of new HCV transmissions occur in hospital settings when surgery or invasive procedures are not involved. To examine whether contact with HCV-contaminated surfaces may play a role, researchers at Yale’s schools of Medicine and Public Health studied the ability of HCV to remain viable on the surfaces of objects and equipment commonly found in hospitals. They found that HCV could remain infective on dry surfaces at room temperature up to 6 weeks after being deposited, and that commercial antiseptics only reduced the infectivity of the virus when used at recommended concentrations, not when further diluted. This supports the authors’ hypothesis that accidental contact with HCV-contaminated surfaces may indeed play a role in the increased spread of HCV in hospitals and suggests that dry but contaminated objects and surfaces may also be an important way that the virus is transmitted elsewhere, such as in the context of injection drug use.