Original Paper

Food and Environmental Virology

, Volume 5, Issue 1, pp 24-34

First online:

Comparative Uptake of Enteric Viruses into Spinach and Green Onions

  • Kirsten A. HirneisenAffiliated withDepartment of Animal and Food Sciences, University of Delaware
  • , Kalmia E. KnielAffiliated withDepartment of Animal and Food Sciences, University of Delaware Email author 

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Root uptake of enteric pathogens and subsequent internalization has been a produce safety concern and is being investigated as a potential route of pre-harvest contamination. The objective of this study was to determine the ability of hepatitis A virus (HAV) and the human norovirus surrogate, murine norovirus (MNV), to internalize in spinach and green onions through root uptake in both soil and hydroponic systems. HAV or MNV was inoculated into soil matrices or into two hydroponic systems, floating and nutrient film technique systems. Viruses present within spinach and green onions were detected by RT-qPCR or infectivity assays after inactivating externally present viruses with Virkon®. HAV and MNV were not detected in green onion plants grown up to 20 days and HAV was detected in only 1 of 64 spinach plants grown in contaminated soil substrate systems up to 20 days. Compared to soil systems, a drastic difference in virus internalization was observed in hydroponic systems; HAV or pressure-treated HAV and MNV were internalized up to 4 log RT-qPCR units and internalized MNV was shown to remain infectious. Understanding the interactions of human enteric viruses on produce can aid in the elucidation of the mechanisms of attachment and internalization, and aid in understanding risks associated with contamination events.


Norovirus Hepatitis A virus Spinach Green onions Internalization