Every year, norovirus causes hundreds of millions of cases of food poisoning — and the deaths of at least 50,000 children — yet there exists no real way to control it. The virus has proven exceptionally difficult to study in the lab, and scientists have struggled to develop effective vaccines and drugs.
A new study at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis describes a creative way to make a vaccine against norovirus by piggybacking on the highly effective vaccines for rotavirus, an unrelated virus that also causes diarrhea.
The researchers created an experimental rotavirus-norovirus combo vaccine by adding a key protein from norovirus to a harmless strain of rotavirus. Mice that received the experimental vaccine produced neutralizing antibodies against both rotavirus and norovirus. The study, available online in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, outlines an innovative approach to preventing one of the most common and intractable viral infections.