Why do Norovirus pandemics occur and how can we control them?


  • Prof Judith Breuer

    University College London

  • Prof Ralph Baric

    University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

  • Dr David Allen

    Public Health England

  • Prof Sarah O'Brien

    University of Liverpool

  • Prof John Edmunds

    London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine

  • Prof Andrew Hayward

    University College London

  • Prof Richard Goldstein

    University College London

Project summary

Norovirus is the commonest cause of vomiting and diarrhoea worldwide and the cause of more than 200,000 deaths every year affecting predominantly babies in developing countries. In the UK, norovirus outbreaks, particularly in winter months, are the most common reason for hospital ward closures, as well as affecting schools, care homes and even cruise ships. Although new vaccines are being developed, the worldwide spread every two to five years of a new ‘pandemic’ norovirus strain may reduce their effectiveness.

We propose to analyse noroviruses collected over the last 20 years to work out how many different strains a vaccine would need to protect against. Using information on where and when each norovirus was collected will help us understand the time and place of origin for each new pandemic strain. By measuring antibodies to norovirus in stored blood samples from the same time period, we will work out how quickly new norovirus pandemics spread and whether children are the first to be infected.

We will analyse all the data together to work out who should be vaccinated, how often and whether we can predict which strains are more likely to cause problems.