Experimental vaccine protects against norovirus

Researchers have found that an experimental vaccine protected people from norovirus during a small study involving 77 healthy men and women.
Norovirus is infamous for sickening hundreds in outbreaks aboard cruise ships. The illness spreads from person to person through contaminated food or water, causing vomiting, diarrhea and stomach pain. The infection causes more than 20 million cases of acute gastroenteritis annually in the United States and there is no approved treatment, the New York Times reports.
The research, which appeared in a recent issue of The England Journal of Medicine, tested a vaccine containing a non-infectious, weakened version of the virus. The scientists gave 38 of the subjects the vaccine and 39 an inactive placebo in two doses, three weeks apart. After the second dose, all volunteers drank a liquid containing norovirus. Illness and infection developed in 37 percent of those who took the vaccine, while it developed in 69 percent of those who took the placebo.
The illness was less severe and of a shorter duration in the vaccine group and the vaccine had no serious side effects. Though the vaccine showed some success, a marketable vaccine may still be years away.
“What this shows is a proof of principle that norovirus can be prevented through vaccination,” Robert L. Atmar, the lead author of the study, said, according to the New York Times.
The study was paid for by grants from LigoCyte Pharmaceuticals and the National Institutes of Health.

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