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Vaccine for Delhi belly possible

Scientists say a vaccine to prevent stomach flu may be possible, offering hope to thousands who succumb to the infamous ‘Delhi belly’ bug each year, reports Sanchita Sharma.

health-and-fitness Updated: Feb 16, 2008 21:17 IST
Sanchita Sharma
Sanchita Sharma
Hindustan Times

A vaccine to prevent stomach flu may be possible, say scientists, offering hope to thousands who succumb to the infamous ‘Delhi belly’ bug each year.

Noroviruses are the leading cause of viral acute gastroenteritis that may cause up to 72 hours of vomiting and diarrhoea. The infection leads to many miserable hours for most people, with time lost from work, school and other activities. But the viruses are especially hard on babies and the elderly, causing death due to dehydration. There is no treatment to stop the infection.

What has raised hopes is a University of North Carolina School of Public Health research that discovered that the virus mutates genetically, similar to the virus that causes influenza. As in the case of flu, a vaccine is possible.

“One of the mysteries of acute gastroenteritis is why noroviruses keep infecting people when you would think we’d be developing immunity,” says lead researcher Lisa Lindesmith of the study published in the medical journal PLoS Medicine. “What we’ve found is that the GII.4 arm (of the noroviruses) keeps changing. Whenever we’re seeing big outbreaks of norovirus, we’re also seeing genetic changes in the virus.”

Says Dr S. K. Sarin, professor of gastroenterology, G.B. Pant Hospital, New Delhi. “Noroviruses are highly contagious. Hygiene is critical when the virus is present. A vaccine may have an important role, too, especially among the elderly and others with low immunity.”

nNausea, vomiting, cramps and diarrhoea. Weakness, muscle aches, headache and low-grade fever may occur.

Eating or drinking contaminated food or drink
Touching contaminated surfaces
Close contact with an infected person

Wash hands with soap for at least 20 seconds
If you are sick with vomiting or diarrhoea, stay at home