Jan. 1, 2014 - Dec. 31, 2015Award Number
Melissa Jones, Ph.D.
University of Florida
Noroviruses are the leading cause of diarrheal disease in the world and many of the infections begin with the consumption of contaminated food and water. Currently, it is widely known this virus is present in the natural environment, but it is unknown what environmental factors are able to decrease norovirus survival in irrigation waters or on produce and therefore prevent disease. In order to address this multi-faceted problem, this project brings together experts in the fields of food safety, foodborne disease and noroviruses. The proposed studies will test several conditions associated with irrigation water quality on their ability to impact norovirus survival in the water, on produce and transmission to a host. The identification of factors that reduce virus survival and/or disease will allow for the development of food and water intervention and treatment processes to reduce virus contamination and thus reduce the incidence of norovirus disease.
Noroviruses (NoVs) are the leading cause of foodborne gastroenteritis worldwide and are estimated to account for 40% of produce-related outbreaks. Pre-harvest contamination of produce is commonly due to the application of pathogen containing irrigation waters. Noroviruses in particular are extremely stable in water and on produce, but there is little knowledge regarding the physicochemical and biological factors that influence this environmental persistence. This study aims to elucidate attributes of water that enhance or reduce NoV persistence in water and on produce as well as their transmission to a host. Objective 1 will examine the physicochemical properties that influence NoV survival in water and on tomatoes. Objective 2 will examine biological properties that impact NoV survival. By modifying these properties, we ultimately hope to develop rational approaches to eliminating enteric viruses from irrigation waters. Objective 3 aims to identify factors of water and/or tomatoes that impact NoV transmission to a host, thereby providing a factual basis for the development of NoV transmission risk assessment models. Identification of conditions which impact NoV survival will also provide the basis for development of intervention and/or mitigation strategies targeting a common entry point into the food supply for many viral pathogens. The gathered data will be broadly applicable to a variety of foodborne viruses and so the information gained will help prevent the spread of other pathogens and reduce both the foodborne and overall burden of disease.