The US Naval Health Research Centre (NHRC) has launched a clinical trial at Recruit Training Command (RTC) in a bid to assess the effectiveness of the first norovirus vaccine in reducing outbreaks of acute gastroenteritis.

Norovirus is a highly contagious disease that causes vomiting and diarrhea, and can infect anyone who comes into contact with the pathogen.

There is currently no available vaccine to prevent people from being affected with norovirus.

The virus can be spread through contaminated food or water, contact with contaminated surfaces, or infected people.

Populations living in close proximity such as military recruits are more susceptible to the norovirus outbreak.

NHRC preventive medicine physician Dennis Faix said: “Norovirus is the largest cause of acute gastroenteritis in the US.

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“Military recruits are particularly vulnerable to the disease with recruits living side-by-side in the barracks. RTC has experienced outbreaks in recent years, which can significantly impact training populations, disrupt training schedules, and has the potential to cause long-term health consequences.”

“Norovirus is the largest cause of acute gastroenteritis in the US.”

According to NHRC preventive medicine physician and study co-investigator Lori Perry, military recruits who are enrolled for basic training at RTC will be asked to volunteer for the evaluation after the researchers have explained the study to them.

The interested volunteers will have the right to stop participating in the study at any period of time.

After obtaining informed consent from the volunteers, they will be vaccinated and have three brief follow-up visits, during which blood samples will be collected and tested in order to find out how their immune system is responding to the norovirus vaccine, as well as other vaccines received during in-processing.

As stated by Faix, the vaccine trial will continue up to one year, with results contributing to the evaluation of vaccine effectiveness to support approval by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for widespread use among other US military populations, as well as civilians.

Image: Electron Micrographs of viruses that cause gastroenteritis in humans. Photo: courtesy of Dr Graham Beards.