“It’s the leading cause of viral gastroenteritis outbreaks in the world,” said Kyeong-Ok Chang, associate professor of diagnostic medicine and pathobiology.
Norovirus infects more than 20 million people in the United States a year. It’s commonly foodborne and contracted in public places like hospitals, schools and cruise ships. The stomach bug causes vomiting and diarrhea and kills about 800 people a year. Currently, there are no vaccines or antiviral drugs to treat the virus, but a team of researchers led by Kansas State University is working hard to find a solution.
“We are dealing with an existing problem so that’s why we think finding an antiviral medicine is very, very important,” Chang said.
Chang is leading a team of researchers from K-State, Wichita State University, Ohio State University and pharmaceutical company Macrobiotics in developing this medicine. The team received $3.35 million of funding from the National Institutes of Health in February 2014. The research team has already been studying norovirus for more than five years.
Chang says the team has synthesized and tested more than 1,000 compounds and has identified several compounds with the best potential for further drug testing. The research is currently in a preclinical phase. The ultimate goal is to develop antiviral therapeutics against norovirus infection by advancing a drug candidate through clinical phases.