Vomiting device to detect aerosolized virus particles
"Epidemiological evidence has pointed to virus aerosolization during vomiting as a likely route for spreading norovirus, and our work here confirms that it's not only possible but probable," Lee-Ann Jaykus, a professor of food, bioprocessing and nutrition sciences at NC State, co-author of a paper on the work and director of the USDA-NIFA Food Virology Collaborative Initiative (NoroCORE), said.
This is an important discovery that can help scientists detect infections at a faster rate.
"When one person vomits, the aerosolized virus particles can get into another person's mouth and, if swallowed, can lead to infection," Jaykus says. "But those airborne particles could also land on nearby surfaces like tables and door handles, causing environmental contamination. And norovirus can hang around for weeks, so anyone that touches that table and then puts their hand to their mouth could be at risk for infection."
The new vomiting device enables research to control the viscosity, volume and pressure of the simulated vomiting.
"In terms of overall percentage, not a lot of the virus is aerosolized," Francis de los Reyes III, a professor of civil, construction and environmental engineering at NC State who is corresponding author of the paper, said. "But in absolute terms, it is a lot compared to the amount of virus needed to cause infection."
In the future, the team hopes to discover how long these particles remain airborne.
"At most, only 0.02 percent of the total virus in the vomit was aerosolized," Jaykus said. "But that can still amount to thousands of virus particles -- more than enough to infect other people."