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Virginia Tech News / Articles / 2005 / 06 

University awarded grant to study high pressure treatment to inactivate Norwalk Virus

June 7, 2005

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service (USDA/CSREES) announced that Virginia Tech, in collaboration with the USDA/ARS Microbial Safety of Aquaculture Products Center of Excellence, Dover, Del., and the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University, Atlanta, were awarded a grant to study the effects of high hydrostatic pressure in inactivating Norwalk virus, using oysters as a model.

Norwalk and Norwalk-like viruses (collectively ‘noroviruses’) are the most common cause of foodborne disease outbreaks in the United States with 22 million cases reported annually. The disease is characterized by nausea and gastroenteritis, and usually passes in 2 to 3 days with no long term effects. The disease is rarely fatal, but dehydration can become dangerous in rare cases. In the United States, most outbreaks are linked to consumption of raw oysters and clams, contaminated water, raw salads, and ready-to-eat foods. Noroviruses are resistant to detergents, solvents, high temperatures and freezing, and are extremely contagious.

The research team, which includes Virginia Tech's Dr. Daniel Holliman, of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences' Department of Food Science and Technology, and George Flick, University Distinguished Professor in the Department of Food Science and Technology, Christine Moe, Emory University, David Kingsley and Gary Richards, bothy of USDA/ARS, will identify one or more high pressure processing schedules resulting in virus inactivation. Co-Principal Investigator Angela Correa, of Virginia Tech, will develop a suite of education and outreach materials on the applications of high pressure for human pathogen reduction in foods.

The study also will include an evaluation of the murine norovirus-1 (MNV-1) as a research surrogate for human norovirus, specifically Norwalk virus. Results obtained from human subjects will be compared to those obtained using mice to determine if the mouse model is equally effective for determining rates of virus inactivation achieved through high pressure processing. Validation of a murine model would greatly simplify future research on noroviruses.

Most importantly, the study should make consumers safer from foodborne infectious disease.