Hepatitis E Virus Hepatitis E Virus
Hand Hygiene

How effective are hand disinfectants against Hepatitis E Virus?


Hepatitis E Virus (HEV) is a non-enveloped virus and belongs to the Hepeviridae family. It is considered one of the most frequent trigger of acute viral hepatitis worldwide. Of particular importance for humans are the genotypes HEV1, HEV2, HEV3 and HEV4. In developed countries, HEV3 and HEV4 are especially prevalent [1]. These types of infection are often caused by the consumption of insufficiently cooked pork meat or pork products. Direct transmission from person to person is possible, but very unlikely. A large proportion of infections are asymptomatic or manifest only mild symptoms [2]. In contrast, the genotypes HEV1 and HEV2 dominate in countries with lower hygiene standards. These are mainly spread from person to person via faecal-oral transmission and can cause more severe courses of disease - especially in pregnant women [1]. In order to avoid infections, good hygiene is of great importance and should be considered especially during stays in HEV1/2 endemic countries. This also includes hand disinfection. But how well do hand disinfectants (HD) actually protect against infections with HEV?

Study on efficacy of alcohol-based hand disinfectants

In a paper published at the beginning of May 2022, a team of scientists from various German research centres investigated the effectiveness of alcohol-based HD against HEV [3]. The researchers observed that HEV showed insufficient reduction in four of the five products tested. The team concluded that HEV are tolerant against alcoholic HD. Only one ethanolic HD showed sufficient efficacy within 30 seconds in the experiments [3]. No studies with longer exposure times were conducted. In summary, the researchers conclude that in the event of an outbreak with HEV, especially HEV1 and HEV2, it is essential that extended hygiene and infection prevention measures should also be adhered to, including food safety and sanitation measures [3].

Alcoholic hand disinfectants are sufficiently effective when the recommended exposure times are observed

The ethanolic products Sterillium® Virugard and Sterillium® med were tested according to the test method of the European standard EN 14476 [4], which confirmed the full spectrum of virucidal activity for both products. Annex A of this test method lists a variety of clinically relevant enveloped and non-enveloped viruses, including HEV, comprised in the spectrum of virucidal activity according to EN 14476. An efficacy against HEV can therefore be assumed. Since efficacy tests are always performed with standardised, representative test organisms, it is not necessary to test all potential germs. Alcohol-based hand disinfectants with a virucidal spectrum of activity may therefore be considered sufficiently safe to prevent HEV infections when used properly and are usually skin-friendly products.


  1. Aslan AT, Balaban HY (2020) Hepatitis E virus: Epidemiology, diagnosis, clinical manifestations, and treatment. World J Gastroenterol 26: 5543–5560. https://doi.org/10.3748/wjg.v26.i37.5543
  2. Robert Koch-Institut (2015; letzte Aktualisierung 2021) Hepatitis E: RKI-Ratgeber. https://www.rki.de/DE/Content/Infekt/EpidBull/Merkblaetter/Ratgeber_HepatitisE.html (retrievd on 08.06.2022)

Use hand disinfectant carefully. Always read the label and product information before use.

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