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Noroviruses everywhere: has something changed?

PURPOSE OF REVIEW: Noroviruses causing gastroenteritis in humans have increasingly been described in both the scientific literature and the lay press. This review summarizes new information about where and why these viruses are detected as well as new developments to prevent or treat these infections.

RECENT FINDINGS: Noroviruses are highly infectious and quite stable. Noroviruses infect all age groups, with particularly severe disease occurring in young children, the elderly, and persons with chronic diseases. Noroviruses also cause persistent infections in immunosuppressed patients. Host susceptibility factors have been identified, including histo-blood group antigens that likely function as initial receptors for some noroviruses. The patterns of susceptibility are complex, however, and not completely understood for all virus strains. X-ray crystallographic information on the virus capsid and other viral-encoded proteins provides targets for structure-based drug development.

SUMMARY: The availability of new methods of detecting noroviruses has resulted in increased detection of these pathogens. Advances in understanding of virus replication and structure should lead to development of strategies to prevent and treat these infections. Such efforts may be challenged by the emergence of new virus strains that appear through mechanisms that remain to be understood.

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