Susceptibility of high-risk human papillomavirus type 16 to clinical disinfectants

J Antimicrob Chemother. 2014 Jun;69(6):1546-50. doi: 10.1093/jac/dku006. Epub 2014 Feb 4.


Objectives: Little to nothing is known about human papillomavirus (HPV) susceptibility to disinfection. HPV is estimated to be among the most common sexually transmitted diseases in humans. HPV is also the causative agent of cervical cancers and other anogenital cancers and is responsible for a significant portion of oropharyngeal cancers. While sexual transmission is well documented, vertical and non-sexual transmission may also be important.

Methods: Using recombinant HPV16 particles (quasivirions) and authentic HPV16 grown in three-dimensional organotypic human epithelial culture, we tested the susceptibility of high-risk HPV to clinical disinfectants. Infectious viral particles were incubated with 11 common clinical disinfectants, appropriate neutralizers were added to inactivate the disinfectant and solutions were filter centrifuged. Changes in the infectivity titres of the disinfectant-treated virus were measured compared with untreated virus.

Results: HPV16 is a highly resistant virus; more so than other non-enveloped viruses previously tested. The HPV16 quasivirions showed similar resistance to native virions, except for being susceptible to isopropanol, the triple phenolic and the lower concentration peracetic acid-silver (PAA-silver)-based disinfectant. Authentic virus and quasivirus were resistant to glutaraldehyde and ortho-phthalaldehyde and susceptible to hypochlorite and the higher concentration PAA-silver-based disinfectant.

Conclusions: We present the first disinfectant susceptibility data on HPV16 native virions, which show that commonly used clinical disinfectants, including those used as sterilants in medical and dental healthcare facilities, have no effect on HPV16 infectivity. Policy changes concerning disinfectant use are needed. The unusually high resistance of HPV16 to disinfection supports other data suggesting the possibility of fomite or non-sexual transmission of HPV16.

Keywords: cancer; glutaraldehydes; hospital sterilants; ortho-phthalaldehydes; papillomavirus.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antiviral Agents / pharmacology*
  • Cell Line
  • Disinfectants / pharmacology*
  • Drug Resistance, Viral
  • Human papillomavirus 16 / drug effects*
  • Humans
  • Microbial Sensitivity Tests
  • Time Factors
  • Virion / drug effects


  • Antiviral Agents
  • Disinfectants