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Thermal stability and inactivation of hepatitis C virus grown in cell culture

Hongshuo Song1, Jin Li1, Shuang Shi1, Ling Yan1, Hui Zhuang1* and Kui Li2*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Microbiology, Peking University Health Science Center, Beijing 100191, China

2 Department of Molecular Sciences, University of Tennessee Health Science Center, Memphis, Tennessee 38163, USA

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Virology Journal 2010, 7:40  doi:10.1186/1743-422X-7-40

Published: 18 February 2010



Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is a blood-borne flavivirus that infects many millions of people worldwide. Relatively little is known, however, concerning the stability of HCV and reliable procedures for inactivating this virus.


In the current study, the thermostability of cell culture-derived HCV (HCVcc, JFH-1 strain) under different environmental temperatures (37°C, room temperature, and 4°C) and the ability of heat, UVC light irradiation, and aldehyde and detergent treatments to inactivate HCVcc were evaluated. The infectious titers of treated viral samples were determined by focus-forming unit (FFU) assay using an indirect immunofluorescence assay for HCV NS3 in hepatoma Huh7-25-CD81 cells highly permissive for HCVcc infection. MTT cytotoxicity assay was performed to determine the concentrations of aldehydes or detergents at which they were no longer cytotoxic.


HCVcc in culture medium was found to survive 37°C and room temperature (RT, 25 ± 2°C) for 2 and 16 days, respectively, while the virus was relatively stable at 4°C without drastic loss of infectivity for at least 6 weeks. HCVcc in culture medium was sensitive to heat and could be inactivated in 8 and 4 min when incubated at 60°C and 65°C, respectively. However, at 56°C, 40 min were required to eliminate HCVcc infectivity. Addition of normal human serum to HCVcc did not significantly alter viral stability at RT or its susceptibility to heat. UVC light irradiation (wavelength = 253.7 nm) with an intensity of 450 μW/cm2 efficiently inactivated HCVcc within 2 min. Exposures to formaldehyde, glutaraldehyde, ionic or nonionic detergents all destroyed HCVcc infectivity effectively, regardless of whether the treatments were conducted in the presence of cell culture medium or human serum.


The results provide quantitative evidence for the potential use of a variety of approaches for inactivating HCV. The ability of HCVcc to survive ambient temperatures warrants precautions in handling and disposing of objects and materials that may have been contaminated with HCV.