New norovirus strain could cause severe gastro epidemic

January 15, 2013, University of New South Wales
New norovirus strain could cause severe gastro epidemic

(Medical Xpress)—UNSW researchers have discovered a new strain of norovirus that they warn could cause a severe epidemic of acute gastroenteritis in Australia this winter.

Known as Sydney 2012, the highly infectious has already caused an epidemic of nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea in Europe, with an estimated 1.2 million cases of gastro in the UK during the colder months.

It has led to the closure of dozens of hospital wards there, and affected schools, age-cared facilities, and workplaces, resulting in headlines in the British press such as the "Chunder from Down Under."

Professor Peter White, and his team in the School of Biotechnology and Biomolecular Sciences in the Faculty of Science, identified the new strain from Sydney patients last March, in collaboration with researchers at the Prince of Wales Hospital.

Of the 40 different of norovirus circulating in the community at any time, only one type, known as GII.4, causes epidemics and pandemics.

Professor White, a molecular , said his team found that Sydney 2012 was a member of these notorious GII.4 .

"So I knew straight away it was a potentially pandemic strain," he said.

Team member, Dr John-Sebastian Eden, worked out the complete of the virus.

"I noted it was quite different to what we'd seen before. It was a hybrid," Dr Eden said.

They found Sydney 2012 was a combination of two strains that originated in Holland and Japan in about 2007, and must have initially emerged in a patient who was infected with both.

It is no more virulent than other strains, but its novelty means it can evade the .

"Even if you've had a norovirus infection in the past it won't protect you from this one," Professor White said.

The researchers alerted scientists around the world that the new strain could be responsible for an increase in gastro. Following the publication of the new strain in Eurosurveillance it has been confirmed by the Health Protection Agency in the UK that it was responsible for the British epidemic.

Although it was first identified and characterised in Sydney, the new strain only accounted for about a quarter of the infections in NSW last winter, with this figure steadily increasing.

But it was responsible for 75 per cent of cases in Adelaide and almost all the cases of gastro in New Zealand.

It is expected to become the dominant strain in Australia in winter, taking over from the previous pandemic strain known as New Orleans 2009.
"As many as 400,000 people could become infected," Professor White said.

Pandemic strains have emerged around the world five times, in 1996-97, 2002, 2004, 2006 and 2009.

Sydney 2012 has also spread to Japan, France, Belgium, Denmark and the US.

It is likely to be the cause of an unusually high number of summer cases of gastroenteritis in Melbourne, and for recent outbreaks on cruise ships visiting Sydney.

Explore further: Vaccine against epidemic gastroenteritis being tested

Related Stories

Vaccine against epidemic gastroenteritis being tested

December 9, 2011
(Medical Xpress) -- A new vaccine is being tested in the US that may protect against the norovirus, which causes "stomach flu" or acute viral gastroenteritis, that can occur in confined living settings such as cruise ships, ...

Australia: Vaccine-resistant whooping cough takes epidemic to new level

March 21, 2012
A new strain of whooping cough that appears to be resistant to vaccination could take Australia’s four-year epidemic into a dangerous new phase, researchers have warned.

Countdown to the introduction of a norovirus vaccine

February 17, 2012
Noroviruses are believed to make up half of all food-borne disease outbreaks in the United States, causing incapacitating (and often violent) stomach flu. These notorious human pathogens are responsible for 90 percent of ...

Swine flu strain that is resistant to Tamiflu is spreading more easily

December 29, 2011
The flu season is still young in the United States and the rest of the Northern Hemisphere, but Australia wrapped up its flu season months ago, and public health officials there have some disturbing news to report: The version ...

Norovirus found in majority of British oysters: study

November 29, 2011
Three-quarters of British-grown oysters contain norovirus, a bug which causes diarrhoea and vomiting, according to new research published on Tuesday by the Food Standards Agency (FSA).

Recommended for you

New long-acting approach for malaria therapy developed

January 22, 2018
A new study, published in Nature Communications, conducted by the University of Liverpool and the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine highlights a new 'long acting' medicine for the prevention of malaria.

Virus shown to be likely cause of mystery polio-like illness

January 22, 2018
A major review by UNSW researchers has identified strong evidence that a virus called Enterovirus D68 is the cause of a mystery polio-like illness that has paralysed children in the US, Canada and Europe.

Creation of synthetic horsepox virus could lead to more effective smallpox vaccine

January 19, 2018
UAlberta researchers created a new synthetic virus that could lead to the development of a more effective vaccine against smallpox. The discovery demonstrates how techniques based on the use of synthetic DNA can be used to ...

Study ends debate over role of steroids in treating septic shock

January 19, 2018
The results from the largest ever study of septic shock could improve treatment for critically ill patients and save health systems worldwide hundreds of millions of dollars each year.

New approach could help curtail hospitalizations due to influenza infection

January 18, 2018
More than 700,000 Americans were hospitalized due to illnesses associated with the seasonal flu during the 2014-15 flu season, according to federal estimates. A radical new approach to vaccine development at UCLA may help ...

Flu may be spread just by breathing, new study shows; coughing and sneezing not required

January 18, 2018
It is easier to spread the influenza virus (flu) than previously thought, according to a new University of Maryland-led study released today. People commonly believe that they can catch the flu by exposure to droplets from ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.