Human noroviruses (HuNoVs), a leading cause of food-borne gastroenteritis worldwide, are easily transferred via ready-to-eat (RTE) foods, often prepared by infected food handlers.
In this study, the transmission of HuNoV and murine norovirus (MuNoV) from virus-contaminated hands to latex gloves during gloving, as well as from virus-contaminated donor surfaces to recipient surfaces after simulated preparation of cucumber sandwiches, was inspected. Virus transfer was investigated by swabbing with polyester swabs, followed by nucleic acid extraction from the swabs with a commercial kit and quantitative reverse transcription-PCR.
During gloving, transfer of MuNoV dried on the hand was observed 10/12 times. HuNoV, dried on latex gloves, was disseminated to clean pairs of gloves 10/12 times, whereas HuNoV without drying was disseminated 11/12 times. In the sandwich-preparing simulation, both viruses were transferred repeatedly to the first recipient surface (left hand, cucumber, and knife) during the preparation. Both MuNoV and HuNoV were transferred more efficiently from latex gloves to cucumbers (1.2% ± 0.6% and 1.5% ± 1.9%) than vice versa (0.7% ± 0.5% and 0.5% ± 0.4%). We estimated that transfer of at least one infective HuNoV from contaminated hands to the sandwich prepared was likely to occur if the hands of the food handler contained 3 log10 or more HuNoVs before gloving. Virus-contaminated gloves were estimated to transfer HuNoV to the food servings more efficiently than a single contaminated cucumber during handling. Our results indicate that virus-free food ingredients and good hand hygiene are needed to prevent HuNoV contamination of RTE foods.
American Society for Microbiology, Applied and Environmental Microbiology, Volume 80, No. 17, Septemper 2014, doi: 10.1128/AEM.01162-14
M. Rönnqvista, E. Ahoa, A. Mikkeläb, J. Rantab, P. Tuominenb, M. Rättöc and L. Maunulaa