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Researchers developing antiviral drug to combat contagious norovirus

A Kansas State University-led team is researching ways to stop the spread of norovirus, a contagious stomach illness that infects one in 15 Americans each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Kyeong-Ok Chang, associate professor of diagnostic medicine and pathobiology, is leading researchers as they develop an antiviral drug for market use. The team -- supported by a five-year $5.1 million National Institutes of Health grant -- has identified and is further testing several protease inhibitors with potential for preventing and treating norovirus infection.

Norovirus is the most common form of viral gastroenteritis. It is often called the stomach bug because it causes vomiting and diarrhea for several days. A new Sydney strain of norovirus emerged last year and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently reported that this new strain is now behind 60 percent of norovirus outbreaks.

"You can control infectious diseases by vaccinations, antibiotics for bacterial agents or antiviral drugs for viral agents," said Chang, who has devoted his career to studying noroviruses and rotaviruses, another form of gastroenteritis. "We know that antibiotics and antiviral drugs are a tremendous help to human health. Our goal is to help the patient."

There is currently no vaccine and no antiviral drug to combat norovirus, Chang said. While several organizations are researching vaccine development, Chang's research team is one of the leading groups studying antiviral drugs as a way to treat norovirus.
 
 

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