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Transfer of Enteric Viruses Adenovirus and Coxsackievirus and Bacteriophage MS2 from Liquid to Human Skin


Indirect exposure to waterborne viruses increases the risk of infection, especially among children with frequent hand-to-mouth contacts. Here, we quantified the transfer of one bacteriophage (MS2) and two enteric viruses (adenovirus and coxsackievirus) from liquid to skin. MS2, a commonly used enteric virus surrogate, was used to compare virus transfer rates in a volunteer trial to those obtained using human cadaver skin and synthetic skin. MS2 transfer to volunteer skin was similar to transfer to cadaver skin but significantly different from transfer to synthetic skin. The transfer of MS2, adenovirus, and coxsackievirus to cadaver skin was modeled using measurements for viruses attaching to the skin (adsorbed) and viruses in liquid residual on skin (unadsorbed). We find virus transfer per surface area is a function of the concentration of virus in the liquid and the film thickness of liquid retained on the skin and is estimable using a linear model. Notably, the amount of MS2 adsorbed on the skin was on average 5 times higher than the amount of adenovirus and 4 times higher than the amount of coxsackievirus. Quantification of pathogenic virus retention to skin would thus be overestimated using MS2 adsorption data. This study provides models of virus transfer useful for risk assessments of water-related activities, demonstrates significant differences in the transfer of pathogenic virus and MS2, and suggests cadaver skin as an alternative testing system for studying interactions between viruses and skin.IMPORTANCE Enteric viruses (viruses that infect the gastrointestinal tract) are responsible for most water-transmitted diseases. They are shed in high concentrations in the feces of infected individuals, persist for an extended period of time in water, and are highly infective. Exposure to contaminated water directly (through ingestion) or indirectly (for example, through hand-water contacts followed by hand-to-mouth contacts) increases the risk of virus transmission. The work described herein provides a quantitative model for estimating human-pathogenic virus retention on skin following contact with contaminated water. The work will be important in refining the contribution of indirect transmission of virus to risks associated with water-related activities.

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