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Through a Little Spit

Norovirus, which causes vomiting and diarrhea, may also spread through spit, New Scientist reports.

Norovirus and other viruses causing gastrointestinal distress infect and replicate in the gut and are transmitted through the fecal-oral route, but a new study from US National Heart Lung and Blood Institute researchers has found that enteric viruses are also present in salivary glands. As the NHLBI team reports in Nature, they found that the salivary glands of mice infected with enteric viruses served as viral reservoirs and that pups could infect their mothers' mammary glands.

At the same time, they found that human norovirus could grow in human salivary gland cells. Norovirus, New Scientist notes, is typically tricky to grow in the lab, so this finding further reveals an easier way to grow the virus and work toward a vaccine.

"This work is really interesting and important," Cornell University's Sarah Caddy, who was not involved in the work, tells New Scientist. "We have known for 20 years that the carbohydrate receptors for norovirus are present in saliva, but no one has convincingly shown this is important for virus transmission until now."

The researchers, it adds, now plan to work out how the virus may spread via saliva among humans.