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Experimental adaptation of human echovirus 11 to ultraviolet radiation leads to resistance to disinfection and ribavirin.

Abstract

Ultraviolet light in the UVC range is a commonly used disinfectant to control viruses in clinical settings and water treatment. However, it is currently unknown whether human viral pathogens may develop resistance to such stressor. Here, we investigate the adaptation of an enteric pathogen, human echovirus 11, to disinfection by UVC, and characterized the underlying phenotypic and genotypic changes. Repeated exposure to UVC lead to a reduction in the UVC inactivation rate of approximately 15 per cent compared to that of the wild-type and the control populations. Time-series next-generation sequencing data revealed that this adaptation to UVC was accompanied by a decrease in the virus mutation rate. The inactivation efficiency of UVC was additionally compromised by a shift from first-order to biphasic inactivation kinetics, a form of 'viral persistence' present in the UVC resistant and control populations. Importantly, populations with biphasic inactivation kinetics also exhibited resistance to ribavirin, an antiviral drug that, as UVC, interferes with the viral replication. Overall, the ability of echovirus 11 to adapt to UVC is limited, but it may have relevant consequences for disinfection in clinical settings and water treatment plants.

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