[ Watch the Video: An Unorthodox, Spicy Cure For Norovirus ]
Brett Smith for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
New research from the University of Arizona has found that pizza contains an effective weapon against the norovirus, which causes a nasty illness marked by vomiting and diarrhea.
According to a report published Wednesday in the Journal of Applied Microbiology, carvacrol – the substance in oregano oil that gives pizza its distinctive smell – effectively breaks down the tough, protective exterior of the norovirus.
Often the cause of food-borne epidemics, the norovirus is especially problematic in confined living quarters such as hospitals, cruise ships, and schools. Even though the disease is unpleasant, most people get better within a few days. However, the virus can be deadly for people with an existing significant medical problem.
“Carvacrol could potentially be used as a food sanitizer and possibly as a surface sanitizer, particularly in conjunction with other antimicrobials,” said study author Kelly Bright. “We have some work to do to assess its potential but carvacrol has a unique way of attacking the virus, which makes it an interesting prospect.”
Using mice to model the disease, the scientists learned that carvacrol seemed to act directly on the virus capsid, a robust layer of proteins that encompasses the virus, causing it to disintegrate. This action would give a different antimicrobial the chance to enter the sensitive interior of the virus and destroy it. The researchers also noted that carvacrol is relatively slow acting and suggested that a routine cleaning regimen would offer a long-lasting antimicrobial layer on surfaces.
One main benefit of carvacrol is that it acts on the external proteins of the virus, meaning it is improbable that norovirus would ever build up a resistance. A carvacrol disinfectant would also be safe, non-corrosive and it wouldn’t produce any harmful by-products. This makes it appreciably attractive for use in highly-populated settings including schools, medical centers, long-term care facilities and substance rehabilitation centers.
Unfortunately, the researchers said a steady diet of pizza would not provide enough carvacrol to offer significant protection against the norovirus.
According to research presented at the IDWeek 2013 infectious diseases conference in October, an experimental norovirus vaccine has been found to reduce the main symptoms of the gastrointestinal infection by more than half.
The study team conducted a randomized, multi-center trial featuring 98 individuals who agreed to drink water contaminated with a significant amount of the virus. Fifty of those participants were injected with the vaccine, and the remaining 48 were given a placebo injection. Neither group knew in advance which group had received the vaccine and which group had not.
Twenty-six members of the vaccine group (52 percent) were infected, as were 29 members (60 percent) of those in the placebo group. Among those who did not receive the vaccine, 20 members (42 percent) suffered from mild, moderate or severe vomiting and/or diarrhea. In comparison, 10 (20 percent) of the vaccine group experienced those symptoms – a reduction of 52 percent.
“Norovirus truly is a global issue and most if not everyone has experienced it to some degree. The results of our study are promising and our next step is to test this vaccine in a real-world setting,” said lead researcher David I. Bernstein of Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.