WEDNESDAY, Dec. 7 (HealthDay News) -- An experimental vaccine may one day help us say "bon voyage" to the dreaded "cruise-ship" tummy bug for good. New research suggests a vaccine to stave off the norovirus that has sickened many cruisers in recent years may be on the horizon.
Norovirus causes cramping, diarrhea and vomiting, and spreads easily from person to person, often in crowded, closed places like cruise ships. Each year, 21 million cases of norovirus occur in the United States, according to background information in the small new study published in the Dec. 8 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.
"It is possible to prevent infection and illness with a vaccine for norovirus," said Dr. Robert Atmar, a professor of medicine and molecular virology at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. But many questions remain unanswered, he said. For example, "we have to figure out the best way to give it and how long protection lasts."
The new study included 98 people who received the vaccine or an inactive placebo. All of the participants tested positive for a gene that makes them more susceptible to the norovirus, the FUT2 gene.
Those who received the new vaccine were less likely to develop the stomach bug than their counterparts who received the placebo, the study showed. What's more, they were also affected by the bug less frequently than their counterparts who did not receive the vaccine. Of recipients, 70 percent of people responded to the vaccine as evidenced by antibody levels in their bloodstream.
The new vaccine is given as two doses three weeks apart via a nasal spray. There were no safety issues seen in the new study. Side effects included stuffy nose and sneezing and were equally likely to occur in those who received the placebo. The new study was supported in part by LigoCyte Pharmaceuticals, maker of the vaccine.
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