The Norwalk virus(NV) is widely known as a cause of nonbacterial food poisoning, infant diarrhea, and acute gastroenteritis in the winter months between November and March. While it is strongly suspected that NV that is excreted by humans flows into coastal seawaters via rivers and wastewater treatment facilities to contaminate oysters that are grown in farms in the area, light has yet to be shed on the behavior of this virus in the natural environment. We therefore conducted a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) survey of NV levels in the aquatic environment of the oyster bed area of the Shima region in Mie Prefecture, whereupon the NV was detected in marine sediment, oysters, and mule clams even during the summer months, when food poisoning is infrequent. In order to assess their similarity to human-derived strains, the detected viruses and their human-derived counterparts were subjected to genetic analysis, whereupon some of the detected viruses were found to be remarkably similar to those that were previously detected in humans infected with NV. In the interests of examining methods for decontaminating NV-contaminated oysters, we also conducted an assessment on a system of virus decontamination that focuses on seawater temperature and oyster metabolism, using Poliovirus Sabin strain. The decontamination system mentioned above was a closed loop, water circulating system, built on the same principles as those actually in use at oyster farms. Our experiment indicated that at seawater temperatures of both 10 degrees C and 20 degrees C, virus placed into the water tank was rapidly incorporated into the midgut glands of the oysters. Thereafter, when seawater irradiated with UV was circulated, the virus count in the oysters fell from 1/1,000 to 1/10,000 within 6 hours. These results indicated the utility of this system for virus decontamination, suggesting the possibility of significantly alleviating the risk of NV infection in humans by using this system to maintain the seawater temperature within the decontamination tank above a certain temperature, and to perform decontamination with an adequate water flow.
Nippon rinsho. Japanese journal of clinical medicine 07/2002; 60(6):1214-21.