The pathogen targets a rare type of gut cell, a study in mice finds
C. Wilen et al/Science 2018
How a nasty, contagious stomach virus lays claim to the digestive system just got a little less mysterious.
In mice, norovirus infects rare cells in the lining of the gut called tuft cells. Like beacons in a dark sea, these cells glowed with evidence of a norovirus infection in fluorescent microscopy images, researchers report in the April 13 Science.
If norovirus also targets tuft cells in humans, “maybe that’s the cell type we need to be treating,” says study coauthor Craig Wilen, a physician scientist at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.
Worldwide, norovirus causes about 1 in 5 cases of acute gastroenteritis, an illness of vomiting and diarrhea accompanied by rapid dehydration. More than 200,000 people die annually from the virus, nearly all in developing countries. Norovirus even popped up at the 2018 Winter Olympics in