Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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09 May 2012

Sick Bug Secrets

Like a rotten apple that’s been dipped in toffee and rolled in candyfloss, the fluffy exterior of the Norovirus conceals a vomit-inducing core. Although rarely deadly, the lack of any effective vaccine or treatment means the millions of people who catch ‘vomiting disease’ each year just have to stomach it. Careful study of the virus may reveal ways to tackle its effect on us. Antibodies [specialised proteins] used by researchers to detect Norovirus attach to hidden spots on the underside of the candyfloss-like tufts (shown in blue) covering its surface. Each tuft is connected to the viral core (yellow) by stalks, which flex to accommodate the antibodies. Such flexibility may play a crucial role during infection – as with other viruses, like Influenza that undergo massive structural changes to infect cells. But it also leaves Norovirus vulnerable, providing an open target for vaccine developers.

Written by Hayley Birch

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BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.

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