Is it effective yet against it or you are not quite sure?
Dr. Treanor: What we have shown is that it generates an immune response. Now, does it work? To test that, we are doing studies where some volunteers are coming into a special facility that we have to be intentionally exposed to Norovirus to see whether people who have received the vaccine will be protected against an artificially induced illness as the fastest and most sure way to demonstrate protectiveness of the vaccine. If it works in those studies then we will go forward with larger studies in the field to prove that it works in people who acquired Norovirus naturally.
Have you seen early results at all from those studies?
Dr. Treanor: Yes, there was a study that was published last year in which people received the vaccine by nose, nasally, and those individuals did have some protection against artificial challenge. What we would like to do now is find ways to improve the efficacy of the vaccine.
So, not all of them are protected, but a number of them are?
Dr. Treanor: Protection meaning that the proportion of people who developed illness in the placebo group, the ones who were not vaccinated, was higher than the proportion in the vaccine group.
Do you think that an injectable like a flu vaccine may be more effective than the nasal?
Dr. Treanor: Yes. What we have seen with the injectable vaccine is that the antibody levels that are generated are much higher than we are seeing with a nasal vaccine. There is a good reason to believe that this will even be more effective in preventing Norovirus.
How would this help people?
Dr. Treanor: We are still trying to figure out what would be the real role of a Norovirus vaccine and it depends a little bit on how effective it is and, importantly, how long the protection lasts. If it was a very effective vaccine and the protection lasted for many years, you might see this incorporated into the regular schedule of vaccines that we give to children and adults. If it is something which ultimately is a shorter lived vaccine, you might end up using it in specific situations like if you were going on a cruise; you might want to get the vaccine before you left or the military might want to use it before deployments. Where it ends up being used, will depend on how these studies ultimately turn out, both in terms of how broad the protection is against many strains and how long the protection lasts.
There will be a lot of applications then?
Dr. Treanor: Yes. There could be a lot of ways to use this vaccine and I think there will be.
Do you think that this will make it that far? Will it be a common vaccine to get?
Dr. Treanor: I am very hopeful. I think there is every reason to believe that it will be protective. The big unanswered question is how long will the protection last and that would be a major factor in determining how we use the vaccine.
Can you see this being not just for going on a cruise ship or for military personnel; could you see this as a yearly vaccine?
Dr. Treanor: Yes. I think if the vaccine is effective enough and we are convinced that the protection is durable, then you could see this incorporated into the regular schedule of vaccines that are given to children and adults. Maybe you get your Norovirus vaccine at the same time you got your flu shot or something like that. That is very possible.
Would the impact be huge?
Dr. Treanor: Absolutely. The Norovirus is a very disabling illness. So, the impact would be in reducing that disabling feature of the virus and allowing people to go on with their normal lives.
Have you had Norovirus before?
Dr. Treanor: Yes, many times.
Can you tell me a little bit about it?
Dr. Treanor: I work in the lab with Norovirus and I’m handling samples and processing things and many years ago had the occasion to get Norovirus that way by accident. I have also just acquired it like everybody else does. Who knows where it came from? I had the typical illness, vomiting for a day or two and feeling very uncomfortable. As I mentioned, one time I managed to get this while working in the lab, which was when I was a Fellow and my mentor at the time thought it would be a great idea to present me as an example of Norovirus at Grand Rounds.
How popular do you think this would be, certainly among parents, but just in general for people?
Dr. Treanor: I think because it is so common. It would be a very popular vaccine under the assumption that it works. It is certainly going to be very well tolerated. When people leave with the vaccine, they have not really had any substantial side effects. I think it would be a very popular vaccine.
How is it currently treated?