Environmental contamination with rhinovirus and transfer to fingers of healthy individuals by daily life activity

J Med Virol. 2007 Oct;79(10):1606-10. doi: 10.1002/jmv.20956.


Rhinovirus infection may be acquired by inoculation of virus on fingertips to conjunctiva or nose (self-inoculation). The virus contaminating the fingertips may come from hand contact with someone with a cold or from virus in mucus on environmental surfaces. This study was designed to assess rhinovirus contamination of surfaces by adults with colds and rhinovirus transfer from surfaces to fingertips during normal daily activities. Fifteen adults with natural rhinovirus colds stayed overnight in a local hotel. Ten touched sites in each room were tested for rhinovirus RNA using RT-PCR. Transfer to fingertips of five subjects was examined by drying 10 microl of virus-containing mucus from each subject onto light switches, telephone dial buttons and telephone handsets. After an interval of 1 or 18 hr the subject flipped the light switch, pressed the button, held the handset. Fingertip rinses were tested for virus. Thirty five percent of the 150 environmental sites in the rooms were contaminated. Common virus-positive sites were door handles, pens, light switches, TV remote controls, faucets, and telephones. Rhinovirus was transferred from surfaces to fingertips in 18/30 (60%) trials 1 hr after contamination and in 10/30 (33%) of trials 18 hr (overnight) after contamination. Adults with colds commonly contaminate environmental surfaces with rhinovirus; virus on surfaces can be transferred to a fingertip during normal daily activities.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living*
  • Adult
  • Common Cold / transmission*
  • Disease Transmission, Infectious*
  • Environmental Monitoring*
  • Fingers
  • Humans
  • RNA, Viral / genetics
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Rhinovirus / genetics
  • Rhinovirus / isolation & purification*
  • Risk Factors
  • Time Factors


  • RNA, Viral