Stop your bellyaching a new vaccine may be on the way

Related articles

Norovirus, the cause of the so-called stomach flu, or cruise ship virus, is the second most common illness in the U.S. (the common cold is the first), and it's also the leading cause of foodborne illness. The virus causes acute gastroenteritis characterized by stomach pain, vomiting, fever, and diarrhea. It s not only unpleasant, but it can be life-threatening as well. That's why ACSH's Dr. Josh Bloom was particularly excited to read the results of a small study in the New England Journal of Medicine: The study supports the efficacy of an experimental intranasal virus-like particle (VLP) vaccine against norovirus, which currently has no treatment or vaccine.

In the combined Phase I/II trial, 90 healthy adults were randomized to receive two doses of either the vaccine or placebo before being exposed to the virus. Researchers from the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston found that only 37 percent of vaccine recipients experienced gastroenteritis, compared with 69 percent of the placebo group. This promising result prompted the study authors to note that, pending further large-scale studies to confirm this preliminary one, the vaccine could potentially be used to prevent norovirus disease.

Though the vaccine needs some further tweaking, Dr. Bloom thinks that, if optimized, it will be a boon to the 23 million people who are infected with norovirus each year in the U.S. I think the vaccine s efficacy rate needs some improvement, he says, but since the virus leads to 800 deaths in the U.S. annually mostly among the elderly and about 100,000 hospitalizations, any advances in preventing this illness will be welcome news.