Norovirus Aerosolization Research Using Vomit Machine

A big question many scientists have been seeking to answer is if norovirus, a common cause of gastroenteritis, is aerosolized. This could possibly occur when an infected host vomits. A new paper in PLoS one tests just that, using a vomiting machine with a clay face on it and a bacteriophage surrogate for norovirus to simulate the mechanism for aerosolization. A video demonstration of the machine can be found here.

Fig. 2 from Tung-Thompson et al showing the vomit machine set-up.

The authors found that the act of vomiting did indeed cause aerosolization, and that the titer and viscosity of the bacteriophage proxy had an effect on how much “vomit” was captured (in other words, transferred to another surface).

Fig. 3 from Tung-Thompson et al (2015) showing that viscosity and titer change the amount of bacteriophage MS2 captured.

A lot of news outlets have picked this story up. Some articles can be found here:

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Alex Alexiev

Alex Alexiev is a recent UC Davis graduate with a BS in microbiology working in Jonathan Eisen’s lab on aquariums as part of the microbiology of the built environment.