In four composting experiments, survival of avian influenza (AI) and Newcastle disease (ND) viruses was assessed by virus isolation in embryonated chicken eggs (ECEs) and by real-time reverse transcriptase–polymerase chain reaction. Specimens contained in nylon mesh bags consisted of 20-g samples of chicken manure, used litter, or feed that had been inoculated with allantoic fluid containing an AI virus (H6N2, Expt. 1) or an ND vaccine virus (Expt. 2). Other specimens consisted of 20-g samples of infected ECEs that had been homogenized and mixed with corn silage. As a control, allantoic fluid diluted in phosphate-buffered saline was contained in sealed vials. Except for the feed, in which the AI virus was inactivated soon after the specimen was inoculated, on day 0 the specimens buried in compost or placed outside at ambient temperatures contained at least 5.0 log10 of virus and 7.7 log10 of viral RNA. By day 7, temperatures in compost ranged from 50 C to 65 C, and viruses had been killed in all specimens in bags. In comparison, viruses in sealed vials remained viable to day 10. Viral RNA in mesh-bag specimens had been degraded to nondetectable levels by day 10, but it was still detected in sealed vials on day 21. In specimens that were held at ambient temperatures (13 C–28 C), the viruses in mesh-bag specimens were inactivated by day 21, but their RNA was still detected. In comparison, the viruses in sealed vials survived to day 21. In Expts. 3 and 4, viruses were inactivated in carcass specimens and in whole ECEs during composting. In an in vitro experiment, the time required for a 1-log10 reduction of viruses was significantly shorter (P < 0.05) in water extracts from compost than in phosphate buffers at temperatures of 25 C to 45 C. This study provided evidence that microbial activity during composting contributed to the rapid killing of AI and ND viruses and to the degradation of their viral RNA.
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Vol. 53 • No. 1