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Heat-treated virus inactivation rate depends strongly on treatment procedure: illustration with SARS-CoV-2

By Amandine Gamble, Robert J. Fischer, Dylan H. Morris, Kwe Claude Yinda, Vincent Munster, James O Lloyd-Smith

Posted 10 Aug 2020
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.08.10.242206

Decontamination helps limit environmental transmission of infectious agents. It is required for the safe re-use of contaminated medical, laboratory and personal protective equipment, and for the safe handling of biological samples. Heat treatment is a common decontamination method, notably used for viruses. We show that for liquid specimens (here, solution of SARS-CoV-2 in cell culture medium), virus inactivation rate under heat treatment at 70{degrees}C can vary by almost two orders of magnitude depending on the treatment procedure, from a half-life of 0.86 min (95% credible interval: [0.09, 1.77]) in closed vials in a heat block to 37.00 min ([12.65, 869.82]) in uncovered plates in a dry oven. These findings suggest a critical role of evaporation in virus inactivation via dry heat. Placing samples in open or uncovered containers may dramatically reduce the speed and efficacy of heat treatment for virus inactivation. Given these findings, we reviewed the literature temperature-dependent coronavirus stability and found that specimen containers, and whether they are closed, covered, or uncovered, are rarely reported in the scientific literature. Heat-treatment procedures must be fully specified when reporting experimental studies to facilitate result interpretation and reproducibility, and must be carefully considered when developing decontamination guidelines.

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