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How long does HIV survive in water?

Monday, 11 February 2008
Answered by: Dr. Anuj Sharma
Senior Consultant Microbiologist
Sir Ganga Ram Hospital
Delhi
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Q. If HIV-infected blood is mixed with water or some other fluid, then how long does the virus survive?

A.  Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) can survive outside the human body for several weeks, with virus survival being influenced by the virus titre (or viral load), volume of blood, ambient temperature, exposure to sunlight and humidity. HIV-1 viability in blood slowly decays and the reduction in viability is more rapid when there is less blood and a lower titre of virus in the blood and when the temperature is higher. HIV cannot survive outside the body unless it is sealed within a container. Therefore, a pin -prick, even if it were tainted with HIV, would be an extremely inefficient means of transmission of infection. Health care workers who are pricked with needles and medical instruments have a very low rate of infection (only 0.3%). Viable HIV-1 can be recovered from blood in syringes even after periods of storage in excess of 1 month. HIV has been isolated from blood, semen and other body fluids from infected individuals as both free virions (cell-free virus) and from infected cells (cell-associated virus). There are reports of survival of cell-free HIV in effluent water <12 hours followed by a reduction in titre 1- to 2-log in 24-48 hours. The infectivity of cell-associated HIV reduces rapidly after exposure to distilled water. However, a sub-population of cell-associated HIV may remain infectious for up to 96 hours in distilled water.

A.  Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) can survive outside the human body for several weeks, with virus survival being influenced by the virus titre (or viral load), volume of blood, ambient temperature, exposure to sunlight and humidity. HIV-1 viability in blood slowly decays and the reduction in viability is more rapid when there is less blood and a lower titre of virus in the blood and when the temperature is higher. HIV cannot survive outside the body unless it is sealed within a container. Therefore, a pin -prick, even if it were tainted with HIV, would be an extremely inefficient means of transmission of infection. Health care workers who are pricked with needles and medical instruments have a very low rate of infection (only 0.3%). Viable HIV-1 can be recovered from blood in syringes even after periods of storage in excess of 1 month. HIV has been isolated from blood, semen and other body fluids from infected individuals as both free virions (cell-free virus) and from infected cells (cell-associated virus). There are reports of survival of cell-free HIV in effluent water <12 hours followed by a reduction in titre 1- to 2-log in 24-48 hours. The infectivity of cell-associated HIV reduces rapidly after exposure to distilled water. However, a sub-population of cell-associated HIV may remain infectious for up to 96 hours in distilled water.

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