Research – Hepatitis E virus defies alcohol-based hand disinfectants

Science Daily

Hepatitis E virus capsid structure. HEV infection causes viral h

The hepatitis E virus (HEV) can cause serious liver inflammation and is the most common cause of acute virus-mediated hepatitis worldwide. Infection can be prevented through appropriate hygiene measures. Scientists from TWINCORE, Centre for Experimental and Clinical Infection Research, the Hannover Medical School (MHH) and the Ruhr Universität Bochum (RUB), together with partners from industry, have investigated the effectiveness of various common hand disinfectants against HEV. They were able to show that most formulations do not completely inactivate the virus.

In Germany and Europe, HEV has its natural reservoir in pigs. The infection can spread from animals to humans, which is called a zoonosis. This often happens through incompletely heated or raw meat products such as minced meat. In tropical regions of the world, infections occur via contaminated water, sometimes causing large outbreaks. “Some of these infections could possibly be prevented with the right hygiene measures,” says Dr. Patrick Behrendt, physician in the Department of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Endocrinology at the MHH and head of the junior research group “Translational Virology” at TWINCORE. This includes, above all, correct hygienic hand disinfection in everyday clinical practice when dealing with hepatitis E patients and infected animals.

Together with the team of Professor Eike Steinmann, head of the Department of Molecular and Medical Virology at RUB, Behrendt has investigated whether common hand disinfectants can render the virus harmless. “We tested the effect of the alcohols ethanol and propanol, both individually and in the mixing ratios recommended by the WHO, and also commercial hand disinfectants,” says Steinmann. “However, only one product that contained another component was effective.”

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