Study finds norovirus, other gut viruses can spread through saliva

NEW YORK: Scientists have found that a group of viruses that are known to cause severe diarrhoeal disorders can develop in mice's salivary glands and spread through their saliva. 

According to research by a team at the US National Institutes of Health (NIH), there is a new method of transmission for common viruses like norovirus, which affect billions of people year and have the potential to be fatal. The fact that these so-called enteric viruses are shared by saliva means that other methods of transmission, such as coughing, talking, sneezing, sharing food and utensils, and even kissing, may also be effective. However, this still needs to be verified in human studies.

The study, which was published in the journal Nature, may help doctors better predict, identify, and treat illnesses brought on by these viruses, potentially saving lives.  The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), a division of the NIH, stated senior author Nihal Altan-Bonnet, "This is absolutely new ground because these viruses were considered to only develop in the intestines."

"Another layer of transmission that we were unaware of is the salivary transmission of enteric viruses. It is a completely new way of thinking about how these viruses might spread, how to detect them, and, most crucially, how to perhaps stop their transmission"Altan-Bonnet said.

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