New experimental vaccine may treat common strains of norovirus

An experimental vaccine created by Takeda Pharmaceutical Company has found to be effective in treating common strains of the norovirus – a contagious disease that causes stomach pain, nausea and diarrhea, Medscape reported.

According to lead investigator Dr. David Bernstein, from the University of Cincinnati, norovirus patients treated with the new vaccine were half as likely to suffer severe symptoms compared to those who were not given the vaccine.

"In a nutshell, we found there was protection from vomiting and diarrhea, the most common symptoms of norovirus infections," Bernstein told reporters at a news conference.

To create the vaccine, Bernstein and his colleagues developed virus-like particles which don’t cause the disease but can stimulate an immune response in the body, according to Medscape.

The researchers then recruited 98 healthy adult patients, who were randomly divided into two groups.  One group was injected with the vaccine in two doses, 28 days apart, while the other group was given a placebo.  All of the study’s participants drank water containing the most common strain of the norovirus.

After 30 days of testing, the vaccinated patients were less likely to develop the infection or to have severe symptoms if they did contract the virus, compared to the patients who were not treated.

The vaccine was not associated with any adverse side effects and researchers hope it can one day be used as a seasonal vaccine.  Bernstein suggested that cruise passengers could use the vaccine before a long trip, or soldiers could get vaccinated while living in close quarters with one another.

"The short-term benefits are very, very attractive even if it doesn't lead to long-term immunity or eradicate the disease," he said.

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