Jul 24th, 2020
5 mins

New test to check effectiveness of cleaning chemicals and cleaning practices for COVID-19

Scientists at food research establishment Campden BRI have developed a new test to assess the effectiveness of cleaning chemicals, and cleaning and disinfection operations on a SARS-CoV-2 surrogate virus. SARS-CoV-2 is the virus that causes COVID-19. With rigorous cleaning regimes regarded as vital in reducing virus transmission, the new test will provide companies with greater confidence in their abilities to clean effectively. It involves the use of a safe ‘surrogate’ virus and is classified at biosafety level one (BSL-1), which means it safe to handle in a range of environments.

Microbiologist Annette Sansom, who has been leading the project, said:

“We have developed and validated a method in our microbiology laboratories to test the effectiveness of sanitisers in solution and on surfaces. It can be used by companies who want to compare the efficacy of different sanitisers or assess the effectiveness of their surface cleaning regimes. And because the surrogate is safe, it can be used to test in in factories, shops, hotels, restaurants, pubs, offices, warehouses and even on people’s hands.”

The scientists have used the Phi6 virus as a surrogate for SARS-CoV-2. Structurally the Phi6 (or Ф6) virus particle is very similar to SARS-CoV-2 – they are both about 100nm, they have a lipid (fatty) envelope, and their genes are made of RNA. Recent scientific publications have suggested that Phi6 is an appropriate surrogate for infectious enveloped viruses like coronavirus and influenza virus. Phi6 is a virus that infects the bacterium Pseudomonas syringae. A virus that infects bacteria is called a bacteriophage (or phage for short). It does not infect plants or animals, including humans – and so is much safer to work with than SARS-CoV-2.

Sansom added:

“While our primary focus has been to develop the test for the food and drink industry, it is equally applicable to any application which requires chemicals or cleaning regimes to be assessed for COVID-19. Since the start of the outbreak, effective and regular cleaning regimes have been key in helping to prevent virus transmission from surfaces. These are still critical as countries begin to relax lockdown measures in a bid to return to some form of normality. The ability to test chemicals and workplaces for effective protection against COVID-19 will provide an increased level of safety and reassurance to businesses, workers and the public by reducing the risk of transmission.”

Campden BRI can test sanitisers and other cleaning products in its UK laboratories, and can also test and advise on the effectiveness of cleaning practices.

For further information contact Annette Sansom at or on +44(0)1386 842263.


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