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Gastro infection insights to curb outbreaks

Health

A South Australian study into infection periods and how the norovirus is spread could lead to the reduced longevity and number of gastroenteritis outbreaks.

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Norovirus is common around the world and responsible for the majority of gastroenteritis outbreaks with around 700 million people a year contracting the short but severe illness that is characterized by diarrhoea, vomiting, and stomach pain.

Researchers at Flinders University and the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI) in Adelaide are looking to find out how shedded norovirus materials behave, including their ability to cause infection and the impact of disinfectants on the notoriously resilient virus.

The world-first research is being led by Flinders University Associate Professor Jill Carr who is adapting methodology developed by SAHMRI to grow cells from the gut and infect these with norovirus. The study will further employ new technology at the Flinders Cell Screen SA facility to screen large quantities of samples.

“It’s only in the past two years that technology has enabled us to develop live norovirus cultures in the lab,” Associate Professor Carr said.

“Before then, researchers have only been able to make assumptions on this unique virus based on those with similar attributes.”

Although patients return to school or work a day or two after symptoms cease, they may continue to shed the virus for weeks or even months.

Until recently, it had been impossible to study the live virus to comprehensively understand the potential of these shedded particles to infect others.

Associate Professor Carr said a better understanding was likely to lead to fewer and shorter-lived outbreaks.

“We know people will continue to shed the virus for some time after their illness, but we do not know how infectious these particles are,” she said.

The economic burden of norovirus was estimated at more than US$44 billion globally in 2017 including healthcare impact, lost productivity and other societal costs.

This is a Creative Commons story from The Lead South Australia, a news service providing stories about innovation in South Australia. Please feel free to use the story in any form of media. The story sources are linked in with the copy and all contacts are willing to talk further about the story.

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