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A cure for the stomach flu? Maybe with new UNC research



Have you ever heard of Norovirus?

This short video explains what Norovirus is, how it is spread, groups that are at high risk for serious illness, and how you can protect yourself and your loved ones from getting it.

This short video explains what Norovirus is, how it is spread, groups that are at high risk for serious illness, and how you can protect yourself and your loved ones from getting it.

We may be closer to ending those miserable days of vomiting, diarrhea, and high fever than ever before after eating contaminated food or shaking hands with the wrong person. A research discovery at UNC-Chapel Hill could help fight the stomach flu.

Lisa Lindesmith, Epidemiology Specialist, and Professor Ralph Baric of the Gillings School of Global Public Health at the UNC discovered an antibody that could lead to a vaccine that supports the immune system in people attacking the flu, dreaded norovirus, too when it turns into new tribes. An antibody is a protein that is essentially the weapon that the immune system uses to fight viruses and bacteria.

Highly contagious human norovirus causes food-borne outbreaks that can be fatal. Many people refer to it as a stomach flu or bug, and it's spreading like wildfire in schools, hospitals, cruise ships and military bases where people are locked up.

Norovirus causes more than 200,000 deaths worldwide, mostly in young children and the elderly year, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is the most common cause of acute gastroenteritis, which is an inflammation of the stomach and intestines.

It infects more than 20 million people a year in the United States. And Lindesmith notes that this is a low estimate, as many people do not visit a doctor and erase their misery at home in bed.

Discovery of UNC Antibody

Typically, your body sends out a swarm of many different antibodies to attack a virus anywhere. However, our immune system suffers from the constant change of a virus.

This can complicate the search for an effective vaccine.

This discovery will help scientists develop a vaccine that focuses a human's immune response on using the right weapons to attack a particular region of the virus that does not change. The researchers found an antibody that binds to a portion of norovirus that remains constant.

Baric imagined that the virus is protected by a mountain range and that your immune system is looking for the critically endangered part of the virus. This antibody is the way to this site.

Now, there is a goal for the development of a vaccine that provides long-term protection because a person's immune system can recognize and attack the virus even if the virus changes. The antibody itself could also help to develop a therapeutic drug for treatment.


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<p>                          Epidemiology researcher Lisa Lindesmith of the UNC's Gillings School of Global Public Health</p>
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There are many different strains and types of Noroviruses that cause outbreaks. The strain that these researchers are attacking, the GII4 strain, is responsible for 60 percent of all outbreaks, causing all the pandemics that have occurred every two to seven years since the mid-1990s.

Serial pandemics occur when the virus changes, a new strain emerges, and current vaccines become unusable for protection. According to Lindesmith, it's time for another pandemic, probably this winter.

"Right now we're experiencing [serial pandemics]," said Lindesmith, "but now that we know where to look for the virus … we have a better understanding of what to expect and when to worry should do. " 19659022] Human Clinical Trial

The 3-year study was published in Immunity June 18, a monthly journal of immunology. UNC researchers collaborated with Takeda Vaccines, a leading vaccine manufacturer, and researchers from the University of Texas at Austin, the National Institutes of Health Vaccine Research Center and the CDC.

The researchers analyzed three human volunteers to isolate and identify these antibodies. The samples were taken from the clinical study of Takeda Vaccines in humans, in which hundreds of adults participated. Their study is currently in Phase 2b and is leading the way in the development of a human vaccine.

Another benefit of this finding is that experimental vaccination was done in adults, but this antibody was not introduced by the vaccine. It was already in the bodies of humans, and the vaccine simply increased the number of these antibodies.

That's encouraging, Baric said, because most serious cases of norovirus have occurred either in really young children or in people over the age of 65. This shows that they are close to providing effective treatment for adults. The next step is to test the effectiveness in children.

Effects beyond the Norovirus

This discovery may be a revolution in the healing or treatment of other viruses based on the researchers' approach, said Lindesmith, who has been using Noricovirus since 1999 for Baric. The way in which they could isolate, define and characterize these antibodies in norovirus could be transferred to others.

Her work provides a blueprint for the development of a vaccine that combats the complexity and adaptability of viruses, including those that cause the flu and HIV.

Lindesmith said her method of targeting the unchanging segment was the "Holy Grail for vaccine design."

"The platform on which we did that is very translatable," said Lindesmith. "Choose your pathogen."

With this discovery, there is hope that future vaccines will not have to change or that they will last much longer because their target will not change, Lindesmith said.

"It should give you much more time."

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