Use of ethidium monoazide and propidium monoazide to determine viral infectivity upon inactivation by heat, UV- exposure and chlorine

Mats Leifels, Lars Jurzik, Michael Wilhelm, Ibrahim Ahmed Hamza*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Journal article (peer-reviewed)Journal article

85 Citations (Scopus)


Despite the great sensitivity of PCR in monitoring enteric viruses in an aquatic environment, PCR detects viral nucleic acids of both infectious and noninfectious viruses, limiting the conclusions regarding significance for public health. Ethidium monoazide (EMA) and propidium monoazide (PMA) are closely related membrane impermeant dyes that selectively penetrate cells with compromised membranes. Inside the cells, the dye can intercalate into nucleic acids and inhibit PCR amplification. To assess whether EMA and PMA pretreatment is a suitable approach to inhibit DNA amplification from noninfectious viruses upon heat treatment, UV exposure or chlorine treatment, viruses were measured by qPCR, EMA-qPCR, PMA-qPCR and cell culture titration. EMA/PMA-qPCR of UV- and heat-treated viruses did not correlate with the results of the cell culture assay. However, the data from EMA/PMA-qPCR of chlorine-inactivated viruses was consistent with the cell culture infectivity assay. Therefore, a dye treatment approach could be a rapid and inexpensive tool to screen the efficacy of chlorine disinfection, but it is not able to distinguish between infectious and noninfectious viruses inactivated via heat treatment or UV irradiation. Indeed, different viruses may have different trends and mechanisms of inactivation; thus, the assay must be evaluated for each virus separately.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)686-693
Number of pages8
JournalInternational Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Ethidium monoazide
  • Propidium monoazide
  • qPCR
  • Virus infectivity
  • Public Health
  • Chlorine
  • Humans
  • Adenoviruses, Human/drug effects
  • Hot Temperature
  • Azides
  • Ultraviolet Rays
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction/methods
  • Disinfection/methods
  • Biological Assay
  • Propidium/analogs & derivatives
  • Virus Inactivation
  • Cell Culture Techniques
  • DNA, Viral
  • Water Microbiology
  • Ethidium

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


Dive into the research topics of 'Use of ethidium monoazide and propidium monoazide to determine viral infectivity upon inactivation by heat, UV- exposure and chlorine'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this