Hepatitis C - contamination of toothbrushes: myth or reality?

J Viral Hepat. 2006 Sep;13(9):571-3. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2893.2006.00735.x.


Chronic hepatitis C patients are advised not to share toothbrushes, razors, nail-scissors or other personal articles that potentially may have been in contact with blood, with others. This study examines the contamination of toothbrushes in patients with chronic hepatitis C as a model for a possible unconventional way of transmission. In 30 patients with chronic hepatitis C, 2 mL of saliva (before and after toothbrushing) and the toothbrush rinsing water after toothbrushing were tested for HCV-RNA. Saliva before and after toothbrushing was positive for HCV-RNA in nine (30%) and 11 patients (36.7%), respectively. Twelve of the toothbrush rinsing water specimens (40%) tested HCV-RNA-positive. In six of these 12 patients, the 'native' saliva had been negative for HCV-RNA. Patients with HCV-RNA-positive toothbrush rinsing water showed no significant differences from those with negative rinsing water with respect to certain clinical, biochemical and virological parameters. In conclusion, our study demonstrates a contamination with HCV-RNA of a considerable portion of toothbrushes used by hepatitis C patients, suggesting at least a theoretical risk of infection by sharing these objects and strengthening the recommendations to take care of a clear separation of these personal care objects between patients and their household members.

MeSH terms

  • Alanine Transaminase / blood
  • Bilirubin / blood
  • Female
  • Hepacivirus / isolation & purification*
  • Hepatitis C, Chronic / transmission*
  • Hepatitis C, Chronic / virology
  • Histocytochemistry
  • Humans
  • Male
  • RNA, Viral / analysis
  • Saliva / virology*
  • Statistics as Topic
  • Toothbrushing / instrumentation*
  • Viral Load


  • RNA, Viral
  • Alanine Transaminase
  • Bilirubin