NIAID researchers discover antibody effective against norovirus

Scientists from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease recently discovered a monoclonal antibody that can neutralize human norovirus, a disease responsible for 20 million cases of acute diarrhea and vomiting in the U.S. annually.

"We initiated this work because there is presently no virus-specific treatment or vaccine to control the norovirus illness," Kim Y. Green, a researcher on the study, said. "Our working hypothesis was that a highly specific norovirus antibody that binds to the outer surface of the virus particle might prevent the ability of the virus to infect susceptible host cells."

The study, published online in the Journal of Virology, isolated genes from the immune cells of chimpanzees and encoded them with norovirus-specific antibodies. These cells were then converted into a human-like full-length immunoglobulin molecule. In preclinical tests, two antibodies were successful against norovirus infection.

"An effective therapeutic antibody might be explored as both a treatment for norovirus gastroenteritis, and as a disease prevention strategy," Green said. "Consider a developing outbreak scenario in which food-handlers, healthcare workers, deployed military, or travelers could reduce risk of infection, incapacitation, and spread if a safe and inexpensive treatment is immediately available."

One in 15 Americans are diagnosed with a norovirus infection annually. Of these, 70,000 people are hospitalized due to the infection and 800 people, usually those with compromised immune systems, die as a result of infection. The disease is highly contagious up to three days after symptoms end.