40% of Surface Disinfectants Ineffective in Eliminating Viruses That Cause Gastroenteritis

Julie Jean, Maryline Girard, Solange Ngazoa, Kirsten Mattison

Some 40% of commercial disinfectants used to clean surfaces are believed to be ineffective in eliminating noroviruses, a group of viruses responsible for more than half of all foodborne gastroenteritis outbreaks. According to a recent study published by Université Laval researchers in the Journal of Food Protection, only bleach-based disinfectants drastically reduce the concentration of these viruses.

Noroviruses spread directly via contact with infected persons or indirectly through contaminated objects, foods, or surfaces. The effectiveness of disinfectants used to clean surfaces at home or at businesses in the food sector is therefore crucial for limiting the spread of these viruses, which affect over 21 million people every year in the United States alone.

The team of researchers led by Julie Jean, professor at the Faculty of Agriculture and Food Sciences, tested the efficacy of three major categories of household disinfectants in eliminating noroviruses: bleach-based products, alcohol-based products, and quaternary ammonium–based products.

Lab tests showed that five minutes of contact with a bleach-based disinfectant reduced the concentration of noroviruses on a stainless steel surface by a factor of 1,000. Alcohol- and quaternary ammonium-based products proved 100 times less effective.

“Our results are of particular concern considering that some 40% of the commercial surface disinfectants on the market are alcohol or ammonium based,” stressed Professor Jean, who is also a researcher at the Institute of Nutraceuticals and Functional Foods (INAF).

Julie Jean’s team also discovered that it takes only ten minutes for human noroviruses to firmly latch on to a stainless steel surface. “Once attached, these viruses can survive for weeks and potentially contaminate anyone who touches them. And it’s highly probable that our findings on stainless steel surfaces also apply to other materials,” concluded Professor Jean.

In addition to Julie Jean, this study was co-authored by Maryline Girard and Solange Ngazoa from INAF, and Kirsten Mattison from Health Canada.

Julie Jean
Faculty of Agriculture and Food Sciences
Université Laval
418 656-2131 ext. 13849
[email protected]

Jean-François Huppé
Media Relations
Université Laval
418 656-7785
[email protected]


40% of Surface Disinfectants Ineffective in Eliminating Viruses That Cause Gastroenteritis:  Created on March 18th, 2010.  Last Modified on March 18th, 2010


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· 11 years ago

How safe does everyone feel now when they read about a cruise ship being disinfected "bow to stern"? Is it possible the effort is not as effective as the publicity would lead us to believe?

Perhaps we need a sheep-dip approach to rest room users. Only 5 minutes in a vat of bleach solution will do the trick.

The hand disinfectant (alcohol) dispensers commonly used are not as effective as the vat approach, but a good hand washing after using the toilet could be the answer. The 21 million people affected each year probably are open to suggestion as to how to avoid a second nasty experience.

March 27th, 2010 | 2:16pm Reply

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