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Data from: Vomiting as a symptom and transmission risk in norovirus illness: evidence from human challenge studies


Kirby, Amy E.; Streby, Ashleigh; Moe, Christine L. (2016), Data from: Vomiting as a symptom and transmission risk in norovirus illness: evidence from human challenge studies, Dryad, Dataset,


Background: In the US, noroviruses are estimated to cause 21 million cases annually with economic losses reaching $2 billion. Outbreak investigations frequently implicate vomiting as a major transmission risk. However, little is known about the characteristics of vomiting as a symptom or the amount of virus present in emesis. Methodology and Principal Findings: Emesis samples and symptomology data were obtained from previous norovirus human challenge studies with GI.1 Norwalk virus, GII.2 Snow Mountain virus, and a pilot study with GII.1 Hawaii virus. Viral titers in emesis were determined using strain-specific quantitative RT-PCR. In all four studies, vomiting was common with 40–100% of infected subjects vomiting at least once. However, only 45% of subjects with vomiting also had diarrhea. Most of the emesis samples had detectable virus and the mean viral titers were 8.0 x 105 and 3.9 x 104 genomic equivalent copies (GEC)/ml for GI and GII viruses, respectively (p = 0.02). Sample pH was correlated with GII.2 Snow Mountain virus detection. Conclusions and Significance: Half of all subjects with symptomatic infection experienced vomiting and the average subject shed 1.7 x 108 GEC in emesis. Unlike shedding through stool, vomiting is more likely to result in significant environmental contamination, leading to transmission through fomites and airborne droplets. This quantitative data will be critical for risk assessment studies to further understand norovirus transmission and develop effective control measures. The correlation between sample pH and virus detection is consistent with a single site of virus replication in the small intestine and stomach contents becoming contaminated by intestinal reflux. Additionally, the frequency of vomiting without concurrent diarrhea suggests that epidemiology studies that enroll subjects based on the presence of diarrhea may be significantly underestimating the true burden of norovirus disease.

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