Poxviruses pp 397-405 | Cite as

Environmental resistance, disinfection, and sterilization of poxviruses

  • Friedrich v. Rheinbaben
  • Jürgen Gebel
  • Martin Exner
  • Axel Schmidt
Part of the Birkhäuser Advances in Infectious Diseases book series (BAID)


The virion of a poxvirus is an enveloped particle that differs significantly from other enveloped viruses. Apart from DNA, proteins and phospholipids, poxvirus virions also contain carbohydrates. They show a high environmental stability and remain contagious over a period of several months in an ambient environment. Poxviruses show an extraordinary high resistance to drying, which is further enhanced by materials in which they are released into the environment (e.g., dermal crusts, serum, blood residues and other excretions). Dried Vaccinia virus can be stored at 4°C over a period of more than 35 weeks without any loss of infectivity. Frozen in buffer at -20°C, a titer reduction of only 3 log-steps is observed within 15 years. In general, virus isolated from patients and/or environment is more resistant to environmental conditions than virus deriving from cell cultures. In addition, poxviruses show a high stability towards different pH values. Due to their low lipid content, they are less sensitive to organic solvents/disinfectants compared to other enveloped viruses. This is the reason for the considerably higher resistance of poxviruses to diethylether in comparison to other enveloped viruses. Despite all of these aspects, poxviruses are highly sensitive to all common approved disinfection regimens. Cell-bound poxvirus may show a higher stability than cell-free virus. This phenomenon is not observed if quaternary ammonium compounds are used. Due to the possible renewed importance of smallpox, e.g., in case of abuse in biological warfare, but also because of the impact of poxviruses in veterinary medicine, representatives of the poxvirus family have been chosen to test the efficacy of common disinfectants. The common sterilization procedures - thermal, chemical, an/or radiation - are usually effective against poxviruses.


Vaccinia Virus Envelop Virus Peracetic Acid Titer Reduction Quaternary Ammonium Compound 
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Copyright information

© Birkhäuser Verlag Basel/Switzerland 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Friedrich v. Rheinbaben
    • 1
  • Jürgen Gebel
    • 2
  • Martin Exner
    • 2
  • Axel Schmidt
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of Medical Microbiology and VirologyUniversity Witten/HerdeckeWittenGermany
  2. 2.Institute of Hygiene and Public HealthRheinische-Friedrich- Wilhelms-Universität BonnGermany

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