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Norovirus grown in lab, with help from bacteria

Advance will enable testing of agents to ward off common stomach bug

3:21pm, November 6, 2014

VIRAL HELPER  Scientists can now grow the notorious norovirus (shown in this micrograph) in human cells in the lab with a little help from gut bacteria.

After decades of effort, scientists have figured out the dirty little secret to growing a common stomach bug in the lab.

Bacteria found in feces help the diarrhea-causing, vomit-triggering norovirus infect human cells in plastic dishes, researchers report in the Nov. 7 Science.

“It’s a huge breakthrough for the field,” says immunologist Melissa Herbst-Kralovetz of the University of Arizona College of Medicine in Phoenix. Adding these bacteria along with the virus to human cells could finally give researchers a good way to test antiviral drugs and disinfectants, she says. 

Norovirus, a nasty microbe perhaps best known for wreaking intestinal havoc on cruise ship passengers, strikes about 20 million people in the United States per year. Healthy people typically conquer the infection within a few days, but the virus can be deadly for young children and older adults.


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