New study gives insight into norovirus infections

A new study conducted by a group of U.S. and German scientists at the University of Michigan Health System provided new insight on human norovirus cases and how to potentially prevent infection.

Norovirus is a virus nearly as common as the common cold and usually causes cases of acute gastroenteritis in its victims. Researchers used mice with human immune cells to study the virus and lay the groundwork for developing vaccines to fight infection.

"Norovirus research has been hampered by the absence of a norovirus cell culture and a genetically manipulable small animal model," Christiane Wobus, lead researcher and professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Michigan Medical School, said. "This new model gives us the tool to test potential antiviral compounds and may lay the foundation to culture these viruses in the lab."

The study found that norovirus infects macrophages, which are important immune cells in humans. If researchers can develop a vaccine to protect these cells they may be able to protect people from the illness that costs the U.S. $5.8 billion from food-borne infections alone.

There is currently no vaccine on the market to protect against norovirus, but precautions can be taken to protect against infection. Proper hygiene, washing fruits and vegetables before consumption, disinfecting surfaces and staying isolated if already infected are all effective ways to decrease likelihood of infection and the spread of the disease.

The study was published in mBIO, an American Society of Microbiology journal.