Researchers Find Antibodies That Could Neutralise Norovirus

Major steps have been taken towards treating a family of viruses that are known to attack the intestines.
October 21, 2021

A recent study published in the journal Nature Communications explains how researchers have isolated antibodies in subjects with a history of acute gastroenteritis that can neutralise several Norovirus variants.

According to the study, in 2010, there were 1.8 billion cases worldwide of diarrhoeal disease, and 18 percent of these were caused by human norovirus (HuNoVs).

In lab tests, these naturally occurring antibodies could not only directly prevent or treat Norovirus, but could also be used to develop vaccines against a broad range of viral strains.

Because these antibodies could recognise and neutralise so many different noroviruses, they could be used against novel variants that may emerge in the future. This research has made strides toward learning how viruses work, which could help prevent and treat new or more aggressive strains.

“Previously, many experts thought that this would not be possible because of the extreme sequence diversity in the various groups and types of noroviruses in circulation,” said James Crowe Jr., MD, one of the supervisors of the study.

“The human immune system continues to surprise us in its capacity to recognize diverse virus variants.”

What is Norovirus?

In Australia each year, there are an estimated 1.8 million cases of Norovirus infection. Norovirus is an extremely contagious virus that is stable in heat and resists cold temperatures, which means freezing or cooking food will not necessarily kill the virus. It can survive on almost any surface for weeks.

Symptoms normally appear 24 to 48 hours after exposure. Though it is possible to be asymptomatic, when someone falls ill, they typically experience:

  • abdominal cramping
  • vomiting
  • diarrhoea
  • headache
  • fever
  • chills
  • muscle aches
  • fatigue

Norovirus is spread by direct contact with a person who has been infected, contact with contaminated surfaces or objects, or by consumption of contaminated food or water.

In the majority of cases, the virus is spread to food or people by Food Handlers who do not wash their hands properly, especially after using the toilet. The virus lives in the intestines, so can be spread through the stool or vomit of an infected person even if they exhibit no symptoms.

Prevent Norovirus through hand washing

Thorough, frequent hand washing is the best way to prevent Norovirus. For food businesses, hand washing should always be a top priority, especially considering Norovirus is most commonly reported in food service businesses in Australia.

Food Handlers also need to be trained to keep raw and ready-to-eat foods separate, to prevent cross-contamination, to properly wash raw fruits and vegetables, and to clean and sanitise all surfaces and utensils used in food preparation.

The Australian Institute of Food Safety (AIFS) covers proper hygiene protocols, sanitation methods and safe food handling skills in our nationally recognised Food Safety Courses. Get the knowledge you need to implement food safety best practices in your food business and help prevent the spread of food-borne illness.