Vomiting Robot: An Innovative Research Project

What's the best way to determine why gastro viruses are so contagious? According to two prestigious US universities it's by building a vomiting robot.
August 25, 2015

Researchers from two prestigious US universities have come up with an alternative way to study why gastro-related viruses are so contagious - by building a vomiting robot.

Determining how these viruses can become airborne and infect others is the underlying question behind this bizarre-sounding experiment.

Ethical dilemmas and physical difficulties made conducting the experiments with humans unlikely for the researchers from Wake Forest University and North Carolina State University.

Unlike a human guinea pig, the robot was able to be created so the researchers could control all of the variables, which according to the News.com.au article are “the volume of vomit, the density of the heave, the viscosity of the pavement pizza and the pressure of the projectile yawn.”

How Contagious are Gastro Viruses?

The answer is very. According to Professor Lee-Ann Jaykus from the School of Public Health at the North Carolina State University, “When one person vomits, the aerosolized virus particles can get into another person’s mouth and, if swallowed, can lead to infection.”

“But those airborne particles could also land on nearby surfaces like tables and door handles, causing environmental contamination. And norovirus can hang around for weeks, so anyone that touches that table and then puts their hand to their mouth could be at risk for infection,” she said

While the research showed that only 0.02 percent of the virus became airborne when vomiting, Professor Jaykus explained that was more than enough particles to cause other people to become infected.

Ways to Reduce the Risk of Getting Sick

One of the best ways to reduce the risk of getting a gastro-related virus is by maintaining a high standard of personal hygiene - particularly by thoroughly and repeatedly washing your hands and covering your face when you cough or sneeze.

This is one of the most effective ways to prevent against gastro bugs, especially when it comes to food safety. Biological contamination refers to food that has been contaminated with some form of microorganism - whether from bacteria, a virus or a parasite.

By properly washing your hands you are reducing the amount of harmful substances that can be transferred to food and make you or others sick. Also, it is important to remember that if you are unwell, particularly if you are experiencing any gastro-related symptoms, you refrain from handling or preparing food until you remain symptom-free for at least 48 hours.