Norovirus is one of the most common causes of acute viral gastroenteritis. The virus is spread via the fecal-oral route, most commonly from infected food and water, but several outbreaks have originated from contamination of surfaces with infectious virus. In this study, a close surrogate of human norovirus causing gastrointestinal disease in mice, murine norovirus type 1 (MNV-1), retained infectivity for more than 2 weeks following contact with a range of surface materials, including Teflon (polytetrafluoroethylene [PTFE]), polyvinyl chloride (PVC), ceramic tiles, glass, silicone rubber, and stainless steel. Persistence was slightly prolonged on ceramic surfaces. A previous study in our laboratory observed that dry copper and copper alloy surfaces rapidly inactivated MNV-1 and destroyed the viral genome. In this new study, we have observed that a relatively small change in the percentage of copper, between 70 and 80% in copper nickels and 60 and 70% in brasses, had a significant influence on the ability of the alloy to inactivate norovirus. Nickel alone did not affect virus, but zinc did have some antiviral effect, which was synergistic with copper and resulted in an increased efficacy of brasses with lower percentages of copper. Electron microscopy of purified MNV-1 that had been exposed to copper and stainless steel surfaces suggested that a massive breakdown of the viral capsid had occurred on copper. In addition, MNV-1 that had been exposed to copper and treated with RNase demonstrated a reduction in viral gene copy number. This suggests that capsid integrity is compromised upon contact with copper, allowing copper ion access to the viral genome.
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