Tomato brown rugose fruit virus: Survival and disinfection

Read about the latest findings from our research project (PE 033) on how long tomato brown rugose fruit virus (ToBRFV) survives on different surfaces. Plus, find out which disinfectants are most likely to reduce the risk of infection and control the spread of the virus.
Read more about tomato brown rugose fruit virus

Project overview

ToBRFV can cause infected tomato and pepper fruit to become discoloured and misshapen. It can easily spread to all plants in a crop via mechanical transmission.

It has been confirmed that this virus:

• Can survive for long periods on a range of surfaces
• Is environmentally stable
• Is difficult to eradicate using existing disinfection techniques

The aim of this research project is to gather data in support of current hygiene best practice advice, to ensure the advice is effective against ToBRFV. This includes confirming the survivability of the virus on skin and common glasshouse surfaces including tools and picking crates, as well as investigating the efficacy of a range of disinfectants in denaturing the virus.

How long can ToBRFV survive?

Skin and gloves

  • The virus can last for at least two hours on skin and nitrile gloves, and still cause infection

Glasshouse surface

  • ToBRFV survived for at least six months on some surfaces, including hard plastic, polythene and glass
  • ToBRFV survived for at least one month on aluminium and at least three months on stainless steel
  • ToBRFV can survive on concrete up to three months, but this looks variable as in some cases the virus did not survive two weeks

Will washing my hands reduce the risk of ToBRFV contamination?

In general, handwashing is not effective at removing ToBRFV with, in most instances, at least a one-minute wash required to remove the virus. For example, a one-minute wash with Nzym Rugo was effective. However, this is not practical on a busy production site.

We recommend washing hands regularly, but, more importantly, changing gloves on a regular basis.

Which disinfectants can remove ToBRFV?

The virus survived after one minute of treatment with a range of disinfectants, all applied at recommended rates (please see the latest summary report below for the rates used), on all glasshouse surfaces tested.

Results from testing the efficacy of disinfectants at 1-hour contact times, suggest:

  • Virkon S and Huwa San are effective against ToBRFV at 1-hour contact time on all surfaces except concrete
  • Menno Florades is mainly effective against ToBRFV at 1-hour contact time on all surfaces except concrete
  • Sodium hypochlorite is partially effective against ToBRFV on polythene and glass, and is effective on other surfaces
  • Jet 5 and TSOP do not appear to be effective on most surfaces

These results suggest concrete could be a particularly difficult surface to disinfect, once contaminated with ToBRFV infected leaf sap.

Can ToBRFV be removed from plastic trays?

  • Soaking trays in hot water for five minutes at 90oC can eliminate the virus
  • Soaking trays in hot water for five minutes at 70oC was insufficient to kill the virus. However, a five-minute soak at 70oC followed by spraying with Virkon, was effective

Full summary and final report

This information is based on our research project on the survival and disinfection of the virus, which is being led by Adrian Fox at Fera Science Ltd. A full summary of the trials can be found below. We’ll continue to update the industry with further information as and when results are available.

ToBRFV survival and disinfection – latest summary report PE 033 Tomato brown rugose fruit virus: Survival of the virus and efficacy of disinfection approaches – final report

International research on ToBRFV

Research and development work is being carried out on tobamoviruses and ToBRFV itself in affected countries around the world. Some of this information is available for public access. Find references below for further information:

  • Dombrovsky A, Smith E (2017) Seed Transmission of Tobamoviruses: Aspects of Global Disease Distribution, 234–260. In: Jose C. Jimenez-Lopez (ed.). Seed Biology. Intech Open. 338
  • International Rules for Seed Testing, Annexe to Chapter 7: Seed Health Testing Methods 7-028: Detection of infectious tobamoviruses on Solanum lycopersicum (tomato) by the local lesion assay (indexing) on Nicotiana tabacum plants, effective from 1 January 2014
  • Levitzky, N., et al. (2019). ‘The bumblebee Bombus terrestris carries a primary inoculum of Tomato brown rugose fruit virus contributing to disease spread in tomatoes.’ PLoS ONE 14(1): 1–13
  • Luria, N., et al. (2017). ‘A New Israeli Tobamovirus Isolate Infects Tomato Plants Harbouring Tm-22 Resistance Genes.’ PLoS ONE 12(1)
  • Luria N., et al. (2018). ‘A local strain of Paprika mild mottle virus breaks L3 resistance in peppers and is accelerated in Tomato brown rugose fruit virus-infected Tm-22-resistant tomatoes.’ Virus Genes 54(2): 280–289
  • Salem, N., et al. (2015). ‘A new tobamovirus infecting tomato crops in Jordan.’ Archives of Virology 161(2): 1–4

Useful links

Read the full details of the research project Tomato brown rugose fruit virus: Survival of the virus and efficacy of disinfection approaches Listen to the researchers discuss the results from this project by watching our webinars Read the ToBRFV frequently asked questions Review best practice for hygiene and biosecurity