Long-Lasting Stability of Vaccinia Virus (Orthopoxvirus) in Food and Environmental Samples

S. Essbauer,H. Meyer,M. Porsch-Özcürümez,M. Pfeffer
First published: 20 April 2007

Citations: 30
S. Essbauer. Bundeswehr Institute of Microbiology, Neuherbergstr. 11, 80539 Munich, Germany. Tel.: +49 89 31683975; Fax: +49 89 31683292; E-mail: sandraessbauer@bundeswehr.org


Poxviruses are known to remain infectious in the scabs of patients for months to years.

The aim of this study was to investigate viral stability in storm water, food or gauze spiked with vaccinia virus strain Munich 1 (VACV M1). Storm water, storm water supplemented with either fetal calf serum (FCS) or potting soil was stored at two different temperatures (refrigerator, room temperature; 4°C/25°C). In addition, we analysed the viability of VACV M1 on the surface of bread, salad, sausages and gauze bandages stored at 4°C. Samples were titrated in MA 104 cells and the presence of viral DNA was demonstrated by orthopoxvirus-specific PCRs.

After 2 weeks, reisolation of VACV M1 from all kinds of food, bandage and water samples except for storm water supplemented with potting soil was possible.

Viral DNA was detected in almost all samples by PCR. Prolonged experiments with VACV M1-spiked storm water and storm water supplemented with FCS revealed that samples kept at 4.5°C are infectious for up to 166 days.

Our data demonstrate that VACV M1 has a longlasting stability in water and food. The results obtained during this study should be taken into account for risk assessment calculations for poxvirus transmission. Implying that variola virus and vaccinia virus behave in a similar way, our data call for sophisticated countermeasures in cases of a variola release in biological warfare.