NIH researchers find norovirus can spread through saliva

pharmafile | June 30, 2022 | News story | Business Services, Medical Communications  

A class of viruses known to cause severe diarrheal diseases can grow in the salivary glands of mice and spread through their saliva, scientists at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) have discovered. The viruses infect millions each year worldwide, and can be deadly. The findings show that a new route of transmission exists for these common viruses.

Coughing, sneezing, sharing food and utensils, and even kissing, all have the potential for spreading the viruses, the findings from the study suggest. These findings still need to be confirmed in human studies.

“This is completely new territory because these viruses were thought to only grow in the intestines,” said senior author Nihal Altan-Bonnet, PhD, chief of the Laboratory of Host-Pathogen Dynamics at the NHLBI. “Salivary transmission of enteric viruses is another layer of transmission we didn’t know about. It is an entirely new way of thinking about how these viruses can transmit, how they can be diagnosed, and, most importantly, how their spread might be mitigated.”

The research was published in the journal Nature, and could lead to better ways to prevent, diagnose, and treat diseases caused by these viruses, potentially saving lives. It could potentially lead to better means of prevention, diagnosis, and treatment for diseases caused by these viruses, also therefore saving lives.

The study was led by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), part of the NIH.

Researchers have known for some time that enteric viruses, including noroviruses and rotaviruses, can spread by eating food or drinking liquids contaminated with faecal matter containing these viruses. Some scientists have suspected there may be another route of transmission, however, the theory remained largely untested, until now.

If researchers now confirm that salivary transmission of enteric viruses is possible in humans, they may also discover that this route of transmission is even more common than the conventional route.  These findings may help explain the high number of enteric virus infections each year worldwide, which fails to adequately account for faecal contamination as the sole transmission route.

Ana Ovey

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