We’re all hosts on a viral planet: Viruses help keep the gut healthy

Drunken graduate student discussions about the role of viruses in human development have taken on new importance now that researchers studying mice have shown that a virus can help maintain and restore a healthy gut in much the same way that friendly bacteria do.

kellysheroes2t1oddballThe work “shows for the first time that a virus can functionally substitute for a bacterium and provide beneficial effects,” says Julie Pfeiffer, a virologist at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas who was not involved with the study. “It’s shocking.”

Our bodies are mostly microbes, with each of us hosting a hundred trillion bacteria as our so-called microbiome. These bacteria appear to play a role in everything from our weight to our allergies. But viruses also lurk in and around those bacteria—and they vastly outnumber the microbes.

Like the microbiome, this “virome” may be important for human health. One recent study, for example, found that viruses that are abundant in saliva may weed out harmful bacteria. Kenneth Cadwell, a virologist at New York University School of Medicine in New York City, wanted to know what viruses in the gut might be doing. In particular, he was interested in a group called noroviruses. Although they are notorious for causing epidemics of diarrhea on cruise ships and disease in lab mouse colonies, some noroviruses infect mice with no ill effects.

Reminds of this scene from 1978’s Animal house, but I could only find the clip in this other language.

172 Fall Ill after Norovirus outbreak on Princess Cruises Ship headed to L.A.

More than 170 passengers and crew members on board a Princess Cruises cruise ship that was docked in San Pedro Sunday have fallen ill following an outbreak of Norovirus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

vomit cruiseThe Crown Princess ship was sailing from Tahiti to Los Angeles on a month-long cruise when passengers began exhibiting symptoms of the gastrointestinal illness, according to a statement from Princess Cruises that was sent on Sunday.

“Over the last few days, the ship began seeing an increased number” of the cases, the statement read.

About 20 people currently had active cases of the illness, which causes vomiting and diarrhea.

Princess Cruises has taken active steps to combat the virus, including increased cleanings and disinfection procedures, and encouraging hand hygiene and case reporting, the CDC Vessel Sanitation Program reported.

Other steps would be taken once passengers disembarked from the ship to prevent the virus from spreading.

All you could hear was people vomiting and at night in the Sahara, noise travels far’ Desert trekker struck by Norovirus in sand storm

A Sevenoaks fundraiser had to be rescued from the Sahara Desert after he and his team were struck down by norovirus in a sand storm.

sevenoaks.noro.sandstormMike Purtill, of Amherst Place in Riverhead, was five days and 50km into the Alzheimer’s Society trek when disaster hit.

“We were told sleeping outside was a real experience,” said Mr Purtill who was one of 30 to be struck down. “But it was more like a scene from a horror movie. All you could hear was people vomiting and, well, other things. At night in the Sahara, noise travels far.”

With the situation getting out of hand 4x4s were sent to pick up the bedraggled group.

With their symptoms in full effect and the sandstorm raging, the group were taken across the bumpy desert to receive medical attention.

40 sick at NAACP annual gala; Hotel Sofitel Norovirus outbreak wasn’t contained

The outbreak of gastrointestinal illness at Hotel Sofitel in Redwood Shores continued days after last month’s ill-fated NAACP dinner, leading the hotel to temporarily shut down all its food operations for disinfection.

The hotel and San Mateo County Health System confirmed Monday that additional peoplenorovirus-2, including guests and hotel employees, became sick in the days after the NAACP State Convention on Oct. 25, when 12 people were taken by ambulance to hospitals for treatment of dehydration. Others drove themselves to the hospital the night of the gala or rode out the symptoms at home.

The cause of the outbreak remains under investigation. Hotel Sofitel spokeswoman Sandra Duhamel said foodborne illness and a norovirus are both possibilities. County environmental health investigators didn’t find any violations linked to foodborne illnesses, she said. The company hired an epidemiologist who said the symptoms, vomiting and diarrhea with recovery in 24 to 48 hours, indicated a possible norovirus.

The hotel has conducted a propertywide cleaning under the guidance of Belfor Property Restoration, said Duhamel, adding some of the food outlets are now back in operation. The hotel was open for business Monday, and a handful of guests were seen eating downstairs.

39 sick: Norovirus suspected at Minnesota banquet

There were 39 suspected cases of people catching a foodborne illness after attending a YoungLife banquet on Oct. 12 at Willow Creek School, according to the Minnesota Department of Health.

norovirus-2“Foodborne is year-round, although this is the time of year when we see an increase in norovirus, so that’s something to be mindful of,” said Doug Schultz, information officer for MDH.

 Norovirus, known as the winter vomiting bug in the UK, is the leading cause of disease outbreaks from contaminated food in the United States, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS) officer for MDH Pam Talley said, “We don’t have a lab confirmation of the norovirus,” because of the 39 people who “met the case definition based on the timing and their symptoms” four agreed to send in a stool sample, but did not follow through.

“It was most likely norovirus,” Schultz said. “Based on symptoms and durations and the fact that it’s during norovirus season, it’s highly likely that it was norovirus.”

Wash hands, sick (and non-sick?) workers stay home: 278 sickened in Norovirus outbreak at Shanghai boarding school, 2012

Researchers conclude in BMC Public Health that this Norovirus outbreak could be limited by good hygiene, daily disinfection and “excluding asymptomatic food handlers from food preparation.”

NorochickI’m not sure how that would work, but based on fecal swabs, nine were Norovirus-positive in asymptomatic food preparers.

Here’s the abstract:

More than 200 students and teachers at a boarding school in Shanghai developed acute gastroenteritis in December, 2012. The transmission mode remained largely unknown.
An immediate epidemiological investigation was conducted to identify it.

Methods: Using a retrospective cohort design, we investigated demographic characteristics, school environment, and previous contacts with people who had diarrhea and/or vomiting, drinking water conditions, recalls of food consumption in the school cafeteria, hand-washing habits and eating habits. Rectal swabs of the new cases and food handlers as well as water and food samples were collected to test potential bacteria and viruses. Norovirus was detected by real-time reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR).

Results: A total of 278 cases developed gastrointestinal symptoms in this outbreak, and the overall attack rate was 13.9%. The main symptoms included vomiting (50.0%), abdominal cramps (40.3%), nausea (27.0%), diarrhea (6.8%) and fever (6.8%).
Twenty rectal swab samples were detected as Norovirus-positive, including 11 from student cases and 9 from asymptomatic food handlers (non-cases). Among environmental surface samples from the kitchen, 8 samples were also detected as Norovirus-positive.
The genotypes of viral strains were the same (GII) in patients, asymptomatic food handlers and environmental surfaces. Other samples, including rectal swabs, water samples and food samples were negative for any bacteria and other tested viruses.
Asymptomatic food handlers may have contaminated the cooked food during the food preparation.

Conclusion: The study detected that the outbreak was caused by Norovirus and should be controlled by thorough disinfection and excluding asymptomatic food handlers from food preparation. Early identification of the predominant mode of transmission in this outbreak was necessary to prevent new cases.
Furthermore, good hygiene practices such as regular hand washing and efficient daily disinfection should be promoted to prevent such infection and outbreaks.

Author: Caoyi XueYifei FuWeiping ZhuYi FeiLinying ZhuHong ZhangLifeng PanHongmei XuYong WangWenqin WangQiao Sun

Credits/Source: BMC Public Health 2014, 14:1092

Stay at home, thoroughly clean: Pennyslvania hospital implements improvements after norovirus affects 19 staffers

Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia recently improved its virus-detection process after a state Health Department investigation revealed the room of a patient suffering from norovirus in April was inadequately cleaned amid an outbreak among nurses there.

vomit.toiletThe Health Department report was based on an investigation completed in May after 19 nursing staffers working in the same unit fell ill with norovirus – a highly contagious but generally nonlife-threatening gastrointestinal bug that causes vomiting and diarrhea.

The report found that the room of a patient suffering from the virus in the same unit on the weekend of April 5-6 had not been properly cleaned with bleach as required by the hospital’s infection-control policy. All but three of the affected staffers had developed symptoms between March 11 and March 23, before the inadequate cleaning, according to the report.

The report said hospital procedures also were not properly followed in early March when a patient’s mother displayed norovirus symptoms March 8 while visiting. “There was no documented evidence that [Infection Control] was notified of this incident,” the report said. Whether that patient room was adequately cleaned is unclear in the report.

The Health Department investigation also found that staffers who were out sick with norovirus were not instructed to follow hospital protocol of staying home until they were symptom-free for 48 hours until March 27 – after the majority of the affected staff already had been ill. Only three additional staffers fell ill after that date, the report said.

vomit.infosheet.oct.08

Ebola: Now is the time for discreet barfing

Sometimes I can handle vomit like a pro. Landing from a three-hour flight and when the plane touched the tarmac, my daughter was spewing. I had the bag and calmly departed the plane.

Image10Other times, the smell is enough  to set me off like the pie-eating scene in Stand By Me (left, exactly as shown).

And it’s much more likely to be Norovirus than Ebola.

Barf stories are now everywhere with this ebola thing, and anyone who vomits better be discreet or they will end up wrapped in plastic.

Emirates Flight 237 was surrounded by emergency service vehicles at Boston Logan Aiport as haz-mat teams boarded the plane.

The flight originated in Dubai.

None of the people on board the jet were thought to have come from West Africa.

At 9:44PM passenger Tracy Barahona tweeted: “Ok just announced that all patients of concern have been removed from plane.”

A spokesman for the airport said the five passengers were “exhibiting flu-like” symptoms.

The ill passengers are believed to be Saudi Arabian.

The first lab tests of a Kansas City, Kan., man admitted to the University of Kansas Hospital on Monday indicate that he does not have Ebola, the hospital said Tuesday.

The man will remain in a hospital isolation unit until results of confirmatory tests by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention become available in the next day or two. Hospital officials are hopeful.

EFSA: Scientific Opinion on the risk posed by Salmonella and Norovirus in tomatoes

Tomatoes may be minimally processed to obtain ready-to-eat products, and these steps include selection, washing, cleaning, stem removal, cutting, packaging and storage.

tomatoEpidemiological data from the EU have identified one salmonellosis outbreak and one Norovirus outbreak associated with tomato consumption between 2007 and 2012. Risk factors for tomato contamination by Salmonella and Norovirus were considered in the context of the whole food chain.

Available estimates of the Salmonella and Norovirus occurrence in tomatoes were evaluated together with mitigation options relating to prevention of contamination and the relevance of microbiological criteria. It was concluded that each farm environment represents a unique combination of risk factors that can influence occurrence and persistence of pathogens in tomato production.

Appropriate implementation of food safety management systems including Good Agricultural Practices (GAP), Good Hygiene Practices (GHP) and Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP), should be primary objectives of tomato producers. The current lack of data does not allow the proposal of a Hygiene Criterion for E. coli at primary production of tomatoes and it is also not possible to assess the suitability of an EU-wide E. coli Process Hygiene Criterion.

There are Food Safety Criteria for the absence of Salmonella in 25 g samples of ready-to-eat pre-cut tomatoes as well as in unpasteurised tomato juice placed on the market during their shelf life. A Food Safety Criterion for Salmonella in whole tomatoes could be considered as a tool to communicate to producers and processors that Salmonella should not be present in the product.

Testing of tomatoes for Salmonella could be limited to instances where other factors indicate breaches in GAP, GHP, GMP or HACCP programmes. It is currently not possible to provide a risk base for establishing a Norovirus Food Safety Criterion for these foods.

Norovirus chef Heston Blumenthal defends $500 price tag for Fat Duck Australia pop-up

Like I’ve written before, all the hacks are headed to Australia to make a buck (I actually live here, because of my wife’s career).

heston_blumenthalAging rock stars, actors, and celebrity chefs, they’ve all done, or are doing, the tour of Australia.

Norovirus-isn’t-my-fault chef Heston Blumenthal — whose famed Bray, England restaurant Fat Duck is popping up in Australia next year — has come under fire for the hefty price point of its tasting menu. The pop-up, which will take place in Melbourne, will cost $525 AUD ($475 USD) per person, excluding beverages. Not only is it more expensive (about $75 more) than the original price in England, but Good Food AU notes that this makes it one of Australia’s “most expensive restaurants.” Blumenthal believes the price is justified: “We’re basically picking up the entire kitchen and staff from the Fat Duck and relocating across the world.” Blumenthal must also house his 50 or so British staff for six months.

Careful with those raw oysters, which sickened 550 a couple of years ago in the UK.

He also added that “the cost structure for the Duck is like no other restaurant in the world. It can take one chef days just to make one item for the menu. Dining at the Duck is four and a half hours of entertainment.” In theory that’s just over $100 an hour for a “multi-sensory gastronomic journey of history, nostalgia, emotion and memory.” The reservation line opens October 8 and will close October 26. Fat Duck Australia will pop-up from February 3, 2015 to August 15, 2015.

I won’t be going.