Norovirus is a viral infection whose symptoms involve vomiting, cramps, fever, fatigue, headaches, and diarrhea. Often referred to as “cruise ship sickness,” norovirus is a highly contagious acute-onset disease. According to WebMD, a CDC report indicates that about half of all food-borne disease outbreaks are norovirus related.
A colleague of mine recently revealed her husband underwent an extended hospital stay to treat a norovirus infection. And wondered about the use of probiotics.
Indeed there are a number of research studies involving the use of different research models such as pigs, cats, rodents, as well as in vitro research models. However, I’d like to focus on a research article done with humans.
Nagata et al. (2011) studied the impact of a probiotic, Lactobacillus casei strain Shirota, on Norovirus symptoms in elderly people. The group consuming the probiotic had a similar incidence norovirus gastroenteritis as a control group. However, the mean duration of fever after the onset of gastroenteritis was shortened by more than one day in length in the probiotic group. Further, the probiotic group was confirmed to have an improved intestinal bacteriological composition.
These results are supportive for a role of probiotics in addressing a fever associated with a norovirus infection. As with most pioneering research more evidence will be needed to confirm this effect. Further, was there something about this particular probiotic strain that was more effective than others? Health funding should be directed toward in vivo human clinical studies to better understand the role of probiotics in addressing norovirus infections.