UH Professors Receive Grant to Study Norwalk Virus

Two University of Houston professors have received a grant to study a virus that has many vacationers wishing they had stayed home instead.

It's called the Norwalk Virus, and is dubbed the Cruise Ship Virus, because it is commonly found infecting vacationers at sea. It is a highly infectious disease that causes nausea, vomiting and stomach cramps.

The University of Houston will partner with the Baylor College of Medicine to create a device that makes diagnosing the virus easier. Professor Paul Ruchhoeft (ROW-coughed) says the current way of testing is expensive and time-consuming, so it takes a long time to determine if a person has the virus.

"A diagnostic tool that allows you to determine whether or not it is this particular virus that is causing the symptoms would be extremely useful to doctors because it would then allow them to determine the proper treatment for the symptoms."

The device will determine the presence of the virus by using light and retro-reflectors. If the virus is present, light will be reflected off the sample. It is similar to how light is reflected off of a stop sign at night.

Ruchhoeft says he hopes research will prove this process to be more useful and accurate. He says ultimately the group hopes that every doctor's office will have a tool they can use for diagnosis, because in spite of its name, the Cruise Ship Virus is not limited to vacationers.

"I think the stories about the cruise ships are the ones that get the most attention, but this virus results in outbreaks in all kinds of different situations including daycares, uh, really any areas where there lots of people interacting with each other in a small, confined space."

Ruchhoeft says testing for the Norwalk Virus is only the beginning. He hopes to make the device available for testing of other diseases.