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Surrogates for the Study of Norovirus Stability and Inactivation in the Environment: A Comparison of Murine Norovirus and Feline Calicivirus

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Human noroviruses (NoVs) are the leading cause of food- and waterborne outbreaks of acute nonbacterial gastroenteritis worldwide. As a result of the lack of a mammalian cell culture model for these viruses, studies on persistence, inactivation, and transmission have been limited to cultivable viruses, including feline calicivirus (FCV). Recently, reports of the successful cell culture of murine norovirus 1 (MNV-1) have provided investigators with an alternative surrogate for human NoVs. In this study, we compared the inactivation profiles of MNV-1 to FCV in an effort to establish the relevance of MNV-1 as a surrogate virus. Specifically, we evaluated (i) stability upon exposure to pH extremes; (ii) stability upon exposure to organic solvents; (iii) thermal inactivation; and (iv) surface persistence under wet and dry conditions. MNV-1 was stable across the entire pH range tested (pH 2 to 10) with less than 1 log reduction in infectivity at pH 2, whereas FCV was inactivated rapidly at pH values <3 and >9. FCV was more stable than MNV-1 at 56°C, but both viruses exhibited similar inactivation at 63 and 72°C. Long-term persistence of both viruses suspended in a fecal matrix and inoculated onto stainless steel coupons were similar at 4°C, but at room temperature in solution, MNV-1 was more stable than FCV. The genetic relatedness of MNV-1 to human NoVs combined with its ability to survive under gastric pH levels makes this virus a promising and relevant surrogate for studying environmental survival of human NoVs.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Environmental Science and Engineering, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA 2: Department of Food Science, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina, USA 3: Department of Statistics, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina, USA

Publication date: November 1, 2006

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