Researchers should revisit the standard methods for testing the survival of viruses on human hands to better assess the potential role of hand transmission of enveloped viruses such as SARS and MERS, according to a new study by researchers at Georgia State University’s School of Public Health.
The study co-authored by Dr. Lisa M. Casanova, assistant professor of environmental health, and Dr. Scott R. Weaver, director of data and research services for the School’s Center of Excellence for Health Disparities Research, examined the potential use of bacteriophage Φ6, a type of virus, for such studies. Bacteriophage Φ6 has a lipid envelope, meaning it has structural similarities to flu virus as well as coronaviruses.
Their study, “Evaluation of eluents for the recovery of an enveloped virus from hands by whole-hand sampling,” was published recently in the Journal of Applied Microbiology.
Standard techniques are designed to evaluate the survival and transmission of bacteria and non-enveloped viruses, which “may not reflect the survival and inactivation dynamics of enveloped pathogenic human viruses” including the flu and coronaviruses such as SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) and MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome), the authors wrote.
Depending on the methods used, research may lead to “underestimation of transfer efficiency or viral survival.” The research was supported by NIH Award Number UL1RR025747 from the National Center for Research Resources and a Georgia State University Research Initiation Grant.