In Vivo Comparison of Two Human Norovirus Surrogates for Testing Ethanol-Based Handrubs: The Mouse Chasing the Cat!

PLoS One. 2011 Feb 24;6(2):e17340. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0017340.


Human noroviruses (HuNoV), a major cause of acute gastroenteritis worldwide, cannot be readily cultured in the lab. Therefore, a feline calicivirus (FCV) is often used as its surrogate to, among other things, test alcohol-based handrubs (ABHR). The more recent laboratory culture of a mouse norovirus (MNV) provides an alternative. While MNV is closer to HuNoV in several respects, to date, no comparative testing of FCV and MNV survival and inactivation on human hands has been performed. This study was designed to address the knowledge gap. The rates of loss in viability during drying on hands were -1.91 and -1.65% per minute for FCV and MNV, respectively. When the contaminated skin was exposed for 20 s to either a commercial ABHR with 62% (v/v) ethanol or to 75% (v/v) ethanol in water, FCV infectivity was reduced by <1 log₁₀ while that of MNV by nearly 2.8 log₁₀. Extending the contact time to 30 s reduced the FCV titer by almost 2 log₁₀ by both test substances and that of MNV by >3.5 log₁₀ by the commercial ABHR while 75% ethanol did not show any noticeable improvement in activity as compared to the 20 s contact. An 80% (v/v) aqueous solution of ethanol gave only a 1.75 log₁₀ reduction in MNV activity after 20 s. The results show significant differences in the ethanol susceptibility of FCV and MNV in contact times relevant to field use of ABHR and also that 62% ethanol was a more effective virucide than either 75% or 80% ethanol. These findings indicate the need for a review of the continuing use of FCV as a surrogate for HuNoV.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Evaluation Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Biomarkers / analysis
  • Caliciviridae Infections / virology*
  • Calicivirus, Feline / drug effects
  • Calicivirus, Feline / isolation & purification
  • Cats
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Disinfectants / pharmacology
  • Ethanol / pharmacology*
  • Food Chain
  • Hand Disinfection / methods
  • Hand Disinfection / standards
  • Humans
  • Metaphor
  • Mice
  • Microbiological Techniques / methods*
  • Microbiological Techniques / standards
  • Norovirus / drug effects
  • Norovirus / growth & development
  • Norovirus / physiology*
  • Virus Inactivation* / drug effects


  • Biomarkers
  • Disinfectants
  • Ethanol