Vomiting Larry battles "Ferrari of the virus world"

Mon Dec 31, 2012 7:41am EST
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* Highly infectious virus makes millions sick each year

* Formidable enemy survives outside hosts, evades cleaning

* Moving target means developing vaccines, drugs is tricky

By Kate Kelland, Health and Science Correspondent

LONDON, Dec 31 (Reuters) - Poor Larry isn't looking too good. He's pale and clammy and he's been projectile vomiting over and over again while his carers just stand by and watch.

Yet their lack of concern for Larry is made up for by their intense interest in how far splashes of his vomit can fly, and how effectively they evade attempts to clean them up.

Larry is a "humanoid simulated vomiting system" designed to help scientists analyse contagion. And like millions around the world right now, he's struggling with norovirus - a disease one British expert describes as "the Ferrari of the virus world".

"Norovirus is one of the most infectious viruses of man," said Ian Goodfellow, a professor of virology at the department of pathology at Britain's University of Cambridge, who has been studying noroviruses for 10 years.

"It takes fewer than 20 virus particles to infect someone. So each droplet of vomit or gram of faeces from an infected person can contain enough virus to infect more than 100,000 people."   Continued...