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HPV Resistant to Common Disinfectants

Feb 12, 2014 03:30 PM EST

The human papillomavirus (HPV) is not killed by commonly used disinfectants, according to researchers from Penn State College of Medicine and Brigham Young University. This makes it possible for the virus to be transmitted non-sexually, creating the need for hospital policy changes.

"Because it is difficult to produce infectious HPV particles for research, little has been known about HPV susceptibility to disinfection," said Craig Meyers, Distinguished Professor of Microbiology and Immunology, Penn State College of Medicine.

Previously, disinfectants used on HPV in health care settings have been based on their effectiveness against other viruses.

HPV is thought to be the most common sexually transmitted disease and is linked to cervical cancer. In the study, researchers grew HPV16, which is responsible for up to 60 percent of HPV related cancers, and then used 11 common disinfectants against the virus.

The tested disinfectants included ones made with ethanol and isopropanol, which are common ingredients in surface and hand sanitizers. The researchers emphasized the importance of hand sanitizers, as HPV DNA is commonly found on the hands of patients with active genital infections.

"Chemical disinfectants in hand sanitizer are commonly used in the general population to prevent the spread of infectious diseases," Meyers said. "For flu or cold viruses they are very effective. But the data shows that they do nothing for preventing the spread of human papillomavirus."

Also tested was glutaraldehyde, which is used for sterilization of medical and dental facilities. The results reveal glutaraldehyde to be ineffective against HPV.

"Chemical disinfectants used in the hospitals and other healthcare settings have absolutely no effect on killing human papillomavirus," Meyers said. "So unless bleach or autoclaving is used in the hospital setting, human papillomavirus is not being killed and there is a potential spread of HPV through hospital acquired or instrument or tool infection."

"Meyers said the results suggest a need for a change in disinfectant use policies," a press release announcing the finds concluded.

Results were published in the Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy.

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