Norovirus infection is the most common cause of viral gastroenteritis, or “stomach flu.” A research team at the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) recently produced “nanobodies” that could be used to better characterize the structural makeup of the virus. They discovered that these nanobodies could detect the virus in clinical stool samples and disassemble intact norovirus particles. Such nanobodies may potentially be used to not only better detect but also treat symptoms of norovirus infection in the clinic.
Infection with highly contagious noroviruses, while not usually fatal, can lead to a slew of unpleasant symptoms such as excessive vomiting and diarrhea. Current treatment options are limited to rehydration of the patient. “Additionally, noroviruses come in a variety of constantly evolving strains. This makes the development of an effective vaccine to protect against infection, as well as antiviral therapy to combat already-existing infections, particularly challenging”, says Dr. Grant Hansman, a virologist who leads the CHS Research Group on Noroviruses at the German Cancer Research Center (Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum, DKFZ) and Heidelberg University.
Hansman’s research team recently discovered that a “nanobody” called Nano-85 was able to bind to intact norovirus-like particles (VLPs) in culture. Nanobodies are very similar to antibodies, which recognize and bind to antigens. “However, nanobodies are much smaller, more stable, easier to produce, and cost-effective than traditional monoclonal antibodies,” says Hansman. Interestingly, Nano-85 was able to recognize the VLPs from a variety of different norovirus strains.
The researchers then tested the nanobody on stool samples from patients infected with the virus. In this context, Nano-85 was able to detect virus in one-third of the samples already known to be positive for noroviral RNA. “Because noroviruses are changing all the time, there is a need for more powerful tools to detect emerging noroviruses. We still need to optimize detection using Nano-85, but we hope that it could potentially be used as a diagnostic tool further on down the road,” explains Hansman.
Read the rest of the German Cancer Research Center (Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum, DKFZ) news release HERE