U.S – Consumers might soon be able to gain protection from norovirus, the leading cause of foodborne illness worldwide, thanks to researchers from the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis (WUSM St. Louis) who are developing a vaccine against it.
Norovirus is said to be responsible for “hundreds of millions” of foodborne illness cases each year as well as at least 50,000 child fatalities. It is a very contagious virus that causes vomiting and diarrhea.
It spreads rapidly and easily hence challenging to eradicate. This is because it only takes a very small amount of virus particles to cause an infection.
The study’s lead author, Siyuan Ding, Ph.D., noted that “very much everyone has had norovirus at some point.”
Researchers from WUSM used the rotavirus vaccine already in use to build the experimental vaccine. Rotavirus, like norovirus, causes gastrointestinal disease.
Unlike rotavirus, however, the virus cannot infect common lab animals, making the creation of a human norovirus vaccine challenging.
In the current investigation, the researchers combined a harmless strain of rotavirus with a crucial norovirus protein to construct an experimental rotavirus-norovirus vaccine.
Mice that received the test vaccine developed antibodies that neutralized rotavirus and norovirus.
The subsequent step, which is already underway, is to illustrate that animals immunized with the experimental vaccine have a lower risk of contracting norovirus than animals that have not received the vaccination.
Norovirus is sometimes called the stomach flu or stomach bug. However, norovirus illness is not related to the flu which is caused by the influenza virus. It causes acute gastroenteritis, i.e., inflammation of the stomach or intestines.
A person usually develops symptoms 12 to 48 hours after being exposed to norovirus. Most people with norovirus illness get better within 1 to 3 days.
Noroviruses are relatively resistant to heat. They can survive temperatures as high as 145°F (62.78 °C). Quick steaming processes that are often used for cooking shellfish may not heat foods enough to kill noroviruses.
The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) recently reported a dramatic rise in confirmed norovirus cases, registering a 66 percent rise higher than the seasonal norm.
The total number of lab reports for weeks 3 and 4 of the 2022–2023 norovirus season was 527, which is more than the 318 reports seen on average during the previous five seasons for the same two-week period.
A study conducted by the U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on mitigating the risk of contracting norovirus from the consumption of foods prepared in food service establishments, revealed that full compliance with FDA Food Code recommendations for hand hygiene and the exclusion of ill food employees from the workplace have the largest impact in containing the infection.
Food that might be contaminated with norovirus should be thrown out.