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Unexpected thermal stability of two enveloped megaviruses, Emiliania huxleyi virus and African swine fever virus, as measured by viability PCR

Posted on 2024-01-04 - 04:42
Abstract Background The particle structure of Emiliania huxleyi virus (EhV), an algal infecting member of nucleocytoplasmic large DNA viruses (NCLDVs), contains an outer lipid membrane envelope similar to that found in animal viruses such as African swine fever virus (ASFV). Despite both being enveloped NCLDVs, EhV and ASFV are known for their stability outside their host environment. Method Here we report for the first time, the application of a viability qPCR (V-qPCR) method to describe the unprecedented and similar virion thermal stability of both EhV and ASFV. This result contradicts the cell culture-based assay method that suggests that virus “infectivity” is lost in a matter of seconds (for EhV) and minutes (for ASFV) at temperature greater than 50 °C. Confocal microscopy and analytical flow cytometry methods was used to validate the V-qPCR data for EhV. Results We observed that both EhV and ASFV particles has unprecedented thermal tolerances. These two NCLDVs are exceptions to the rule that having an enveloped virion anatomy is a predicted weakness, as is often observed in enveloped RNA viruses (i.e., the viruses causing Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome (PRRS), COVID-19, Ebola, or seasonal influenza). Using the V-qPCR method, we confirm that no PRRSV particles were detectable after 20 min of exposure to temperatures up to 100 °C. We also show that the EhV particles that remain after 50 °C 20 min exposure was in fact still infectious only after the three blind passages in bioassay experiments. Conclusions This study raises the possibility that ASFV is not always eliminated or contained after applying time and temperature inactivation treatments in current decontamination or biosecurity protocols. This observation has practical implications for industries involved in animal health and food security. Finally, we propose that EhV could be used as a surrogate for ASFV under certain circumstances.

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