A search through decades-old frozen infant stool samples has yielded rich dividends for scientists from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health. The team customized a laboratory technique to screen thousands of samples for norovirus, a major cause of acute gastroenteritis outbreaks in people of all ages. What they discovered about the rate of evolution of a specific group of noroviruses could help researchers develop specific antiviral drugs and, potentially, a vaccine against a disease that is very unpleasant and sometimes deadly.
The research, led by Kim Y. Green, Ph.D., and Karin Bok, Ph.D., of NIAID's Laboratory of Infectious Diseases, will appear in a future issue of the Journal of Virology, and is now available online. NIAID scientist Albert Z. Kapikian, M.D., is a co-author on the paper. In 1972, Dr. Kapikian and colleagues identified and characterized the virus, now known as norovirus, responsible for an outbreak of acute gastroenteritis in Norwalk, Ohio, in 1968.
"Thanks to the foresight of Dr. Kapikian and others at NIAID and the Children's National Medical Center who established and have maintained these clinical samples since 1974, our researchers have a unique resource that represents one of the oldest sets of norovirus samples in the world," says NIAID Director Anthony S. Fauci, M.D. "This is the first study to look at samples that date back almost to the first recorded cases of norovirus outbreaks, more than 40 years ago."
Highly contagious, noroviruses are responsible for an abrupt onset intestinal ailment also called winter vomiting disease or cruise-ship disease. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 23 million cases of acute gastroenteritis each year are due to norovirus infection and that noroviruses are the cause of more than half of all foodborne gastroenteritis outbreaks. In elderly people, infants and people with compr
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NIH/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases