Scientists have discovered that specific complex carbohydrates in human milk - so called human-milk-oligosaccharides can offer protection against norovirus.
Norovirus is the most common cause of viral epidemic gastroenteritis. About 18% of all gastroenteritis infections are caused by Norovirus affecting 267 million people worldwide every year. According to information of the Robert Koch-Institute more than 200.000 Norovirus-infections were registered in Germany during 2012 and 2013. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report up to 21 million Norovirus-infections per year in the USA.
AdvertisementNorovirus-infection is typically characterised by nausea, forceful vomiting and diarrhoea. To date neither a therapy nor an effective protection, e.g. vaccination, exists against Norovirus. The virus is extremely contagious and is transmitted directly from person to person and indirectly via contaminated water, food and surfaces.
The protective mechanism of human-milk-oligosaccharides cannot be overcome by pathogens and their consumption has no adverse effects. Soluble human-milk-oligosaccharides imitate cell-surface bound glycosylstructures that are used by pathogens such as Norovirus as receptor or co-receptor. By oral intake of human-milk-oligosaccharides these functional sugars prevail in the gastrointestinal tract and the blood stream. Pathogens entering the body e.g. in contaminated food connect to human-milk-oligosaccharides and are subsequently eliminated together with the non-digestible carbohydrates.
Support by BMBF
The Federal Ministry of Education and Research in Germany (BMBF) will support the development of human-milk-oligosaccharides by Jennewein Biotechnologie for the prevention of Norovirus within the framework of KMU-Innovativ.
Jennewein Biotechnologie is cooperating in this project with the University Children's Hospital Mannheim of Heidelberg University. In a previous collaborative project with the University Children's Hospital, Jennewein Biotechnologie has already confirmed the effective inhibition of prevalent diarrhoea-causing bacteria by synthetic human-milk-oligosaccharides.