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Scientists Grow Virus Tied to Food Poisoning

Goal is to develop a potential vaccine

TUESDAY, Nov. 30, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- For the first time, scientists have grown a norovirus -- a common cause of food poisoning -- in the laboratory.

Noroviruses are highly contagious and cause diarrhea, vomiting and other problems. Two years ago, these viruses caused repeated outbreaks of illness on cruise ships that were widely reported in the media.

In a study published this week, scientists at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis outline how they grew the mouse norovirus MNV-1 inside cells from mice with defective immune systems. This finding could help scientists learn more about the mouse norovirus and may help other researchers find ways to grow human noroviruses in the laboratory and produce vaccines.

"By looking at the mouse virus we'd grown in the lab, we were able to identify a part of the capsid, the virus's protein shell, that is essential to its ability to cause disease," senior author Dr. Skip Virgin, a professor of pathology and immunology and molecular biology, said in a prepared statement.

"If this part of the capsid has an equivalent in human noroviruses, altering or disabling it may give us a way to produce forms of the viruses that are weak enough to serve as vaccines," Virgin said.

The study appears in the online journal Public Library of Science-Biology.

More information

The U.S. National Center for Infectious Diseases has more about foodborne illnesses.

SOURCE: Washington University School of Medicine, news release, Nov. 29, 2004
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