17/02/2012 13:06 GMT

‘Powder Puff' Vaccine For Norovirus ‘Could Be Available Soon'

A vaccine that provides immunity for the ‘winter vomiting bug' norovirus could be available within five years, claim American scientists.

A group of rival scientists from Arizona State University and the LigoCyte Pharmaceutical company are both working on a vaccine which is close to being tested in clinical trials.

The vaccine, unlike conventional vaccine jabs, wouldn’t be injected into the bloodstream but sprayed, or 'puffed' into the nose in the form of a light liquid or dry powder.

Once inside the nostrils, the powder would trigger an immune response when the norovirus hits the stomach.

The highly contagious norovirus bug spreads around the body quickly and causes nausea, excessive vomiting, diarrhoea and a high fever.

Scientists hope that their nasal spray will rapidly reduce the number of norovirus victims, which claims between 600,000 to one million Brits a year.

The 'powder puff', currently being investigated by researchers at the Arizona State University, is made of empty shells of norovirus particles minus their genetic material. The dry powder is designed to stick in the nose for around three hours at a time.

Although the powder vaccine has only got a 50% success rate so far, researchers are feeling hopeful.

Professor Charles Arntzen from Arizona State University, said in a statement: "Where we are at the present time is we’re coming up with a vaccine which will be in a little spray device. It’s single use, you get a puff of powder. And our current formulation is showing a wonderful immune response.

"The technical issues are being solved. Now it’s a regulatory issue. If everything went well and if there was enough financial support, I could easily see us having a vaccine in four to five years."

The cost of the vaccine is estimated to be around £25 to £31 per dose and in order for the patient to stay protected, they would need a repeat prescription at intervals of six months to a year.

The rival company, LigoCyte, also developing a norovirus vaccine which is produced in insects (the other researchers vaccine is manufactured in tobacco plants), and they say in a statement: "A kilogram of leaf material will make 10,000 doses of the vaccine. We can produce 10 million doses of vaccine in two weeks. It's ready to go from a commercial perspective."

"It's a tough little virus. Once it gets into the environment its hard to get rid of," says professor Arntzen. "It takes as little as 10 viral particles on a door knob to cause an infection."

Responding to the news of this potential norovirus vaccine, a spokesperson from the Health Protection Agency (HPA), told The Huffington Post: "We welcome any new initiative that enables us to help manage the large numbers of norovirus infections that occur, whether that is in the hospital, nursing home setting, schools, or cruiseships.

"There are many different strains of norovirus and these rapidly evolve so a vaccine that gives protection against one will not prevent you from becoming infected with another type of norovirus that is in circulation.

"Immunity to norovirus tends to last for only a relatively short period, so the dose of the vaccine would have to be repeated, probably on an annual basis.

"There are several vaccines for norovirus in development but all are probably several years away from being in general use. In the meantime, until one is produced that is effective and safe we recommend strict adherence to the outbreak control measures that exist to stop the virus spreading in hospitals and cruiseships.

"On an individual level if someone has a norovirus infection they are advised to stay at home and practice good hand hygiene using soap and water to stop the virus from spreading to other members of the household.

"The disease is usually self limiting and most people will recover in a couple of days. For anyone caring for patient with norovirus it is important to keep the patient hydrated and to use a bleach solution to clean areas that might have been touched by the patient - such as the bathroom and door handles to prevent further spread of infection."

This isn’t the first time a vaccine for the norovirus has been in development.

How To Avoid Food Poisoning