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Member Research and Reports

Member Research and Reports

UNC: Scientists Discover Powerful Antibody That Inhibits Multiple Strains of Norovirus

Researchers at the University of North Carolina Gillings School of Global Public Health and their colleagues have discovered an antibody that broadly inhibits multiple strains of pandemic norovirus, marking a major step forward in the development of an effective vaccine for the dreaded stomach virus.

The study, published in the June 18 issue of Immunity, describes for the first time the structure of the binding interaction between the virus and a human antibody that may work against many strains of the pandemic ‘stomach bug.’

Research specialist Ms. Lisa Lindesmith and faculty member Dr. Ralph Baric, both in the Gillings School’s Department of Epidemiology, are co-authors on the study.

Human noroviruses are the leading cause of acute gastroenteritis, or inflammation of the stomach and intestines. It accounts for nearly one in five cases of diarrhea and vomiting, and is responsible for an estimated 200,000 deaths per year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Though there are more than 30 known genotypes of human norovirus, nearly 60 percent of outbreaks are caused by GII.4 genotype strains that have caused periodic human pandemics since 1996.

The most important discovery of the study is a human antibody that can bind to a highly conserved region of the virus common among different strains of norovirus, potentially neutralizing all GII.4 strains of norovirus that exist in nature.

“In order to design an effective vaccine for norovirus, scientists needed to identify a neutralizing antibody that could work against many strains of the virus, as well as strains that will circulate in the future,” Dr. Baric said. “This information can now be used to build better human vaccines.”

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