Medicine for the Outdoors
Medicine for the Outdoors

Dr. Paul Auerbach is the world's leading outdoor health expert. His blog offers tips on outdoor safety and advice on how to handle wilderness emergencies.

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Vaccine Against Norwalk Virus

Norwalk virus is a norovirus that causes occasional and sometimes epidemic gastroenteritis (nausea, vomiting and diarrhea). There is currently not a vaccine against any norovirus infection or illness. In a recent issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, there is an article entitled “Norovirus Vaccine against Experimental Human Norwalk Virus Illness” (2011;365:2178-87) written by Robert Atmar, MD and his colleagues, in which they describe a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled multicenter trial to assess the safety, immunogenicity and efficacy of an investigational, intranasally administered norovirus virus-like particle vaccine to prevent acute gastroenteritis after a challenge with a Norwalk virus strain. The volunteer recipients were healthy adults ages 18 to 50 years, who received either two doses of the vaccine or placebo and thereafter were inoculated with the Norwalk virus and watched for infection and symptoms of gastroenteritis. 98 persons participated as study subjects.

The most commonly reported symptoms after vaccination were nasal stuffiness, nasal discharge, and sneezing. Seventy percent of vaccine recipients showed a measurable (by a blood test) increase in immunity against the virus. The vaccine recipients showed a significantly reduced frequency of Norwalk virus-caused gastroenteritis (69% of persons who received placebo [no vaccine] versus 37% of vaccine recipients, as well as a significantly reduced frequency of infection. These results show excellent progress towards development of a vaccine that might prove useful to prevent Norwalk virus infection and clinical gastroenteritis. After further study, it will be determined if it is safe to bring such a vaccine to the market and to determine the proper group of recipients and indications for vaccination.

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Tags: Staying Safe , General Interest

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About the Author

Dr. Paul S. Auerbach is the world’s leading authority on wilderness medicine.