Epidemiology and Infection

Detection of viruses and body fluids which may contain viruses in the domestic environment

K. BELLAMY a1c1, K. L. LABAN a1, K. E. BARRETT a1 and D. C. S. TALBOT a1
a1 Biorecognition Unit, Unilever Research Colworth, Sharnbrook, Bedfordshire MR44 1LQ, UK


The domestic environment was investigated for the presence of viruses and body fluids that may contain viruses. A range of surfaces in 39 homes (17 visited on 2 occasions) were sampled by swabbing and analysed using cell culture, reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction for enteroviral RNA, haemoglobin as a marker for blood, amylase as an indicator of urine, saliva and sweat, and protein as an indicator of general hygiene. Haemoglobin was found on 1·9% of surfaces sampled and of the positive samples 30% were from articles frequently handled. Amylase (>5 U/l) was found in 29·3% of samples tested. Protein was found in 97·8% of samples tested. Enteroviral RNA, indicating the presence of virus, was detected in 3 out of 448 samples tested; they were from a tap handle, telephone handpiece and a toilet bowl. No viruses were isolated in cell culture, however significant problems were encountered with bacterial and fungal contamination. This work demonstrates that only testing environmental samples for bacteria and ATP may not give a total view of the microbiological problem in the home. A range of test methods is useful to gain a broad view of the problems of hygiene in the home and to allow comparative studies of specific areas such as the kitchen and bathroom.

(Accepted June 11 1998)

c1 Author for correspondence.