Feeds

Brit boffins build projectile-vomiting robot to kill norovirus

Artificial 3m spew offers infection insight

Boost IT visibility and business value

Vid Bioboffins at the Health and Safety Laboratory in Derbyshire, UK, have developed a robot that can projectile vomit on command as a tool for studying the spread of the highly infectious norovirus.

Reuters reports that the hyperemetic droid has been dubbed "Vomiting Larry" by its creator, researcher Catherine Makison, who describes it as a "humanoid simulated vomiting system."

The goal of said vomiting system is to study the reach and dispersion of human vomitus, which is one of the primary ways that diseases such as norovirus can spread.

Norovirus is a fairly common viral infection that is sometimes known as the "winter vomiting bug" due to its increased prevalence in the colder months. Outbreaks are generally triggered when humans ingest contaminated food or water, but can continue when subsequent people come in contact with surfaces that have been contaminated by the initial patient's effluvium.

How do surfaces become contaminated? That's the icky part. Fecal contamination is one way. Aerosolization of the virus through vomit is another, and that route of transmission is believed to have been responsible for many significant outbreaks.

Little wonder, considering what a powerful force puke can be. Scientists studying Vomiting Larry, which was designed as an anatomically correct model of the human digestive tract, have determined that a single spew of vomit can carry particulate matter up to 3 meters (9.8 feet).

Such an eruption would be sufficient to infect an entire room with norovirus, boffins say. According to Ian Goodfellow of the University of Cambridge, UK, it takes fewer than 20 norovirus particles to infect someone, and each droplet of vomit can contain as many as 2 million particles.

"The dramatic nature of the vomiting episodes produces a lot of aerosolized vomit, much of which is invisible to the naked eye," Goodfellow told Reuters.

Furthermore, researchers have found that norovirus particles can remain viable and infectious for up to 12 hours on hard surfaces and for as long as 12 days on contaminated fabrics. Contaminated water can transmit the virus months after the initial infection.

To help track the spread of Vomiting Larry's puke, boffins filled his artificial guts with a "vomitus substitute" that includes a fluorescent marker, making even tiny splatters of his sick visible under ultraviolet light.

While these experiments in emesis have helped scientists understand how norovirus can spread, the bad news is that there is still no cure for the illness. Like influenza, norovirus is a rapidly mutating disease, which complicates efforts to develop a vaccine. What's more, scientists still don't have a method to cultivate norovirus in the laboratory, making it difficult to study.

For now, health experts say that washing your hands with soap and water for at least 15 seconds remains one of the most effective methods of preventing norovirus infection.

And if you encounter any real-life Vomiting Larrys, steer clear. ®

Gartner critical capabilities for enterprise endpoint backup

More from The Register

next story
LOHAN packs bags for SPACEPORT AMERICA!
Spanish launch goes titsup, we're off to the US of A
Gigantic toothless 'DRAGONS' dominated Earth's early skies
Gummy pterosaurs outlived toothy competitors
'Leccy racer whacks petrols in Oz race
ELMOFO rakes in two wins in sanctioned race
Boffins ID freakish spine-smothered prehistoric critter: The CLAW gave it away
Bizarre-looking creature actually related to velvet worms
CRR-CRRRK, beep, beep: Mars space truck backs out of slippery sand trap
Curiosity finds new drilling target after course correction
Astronomers scramble for obs on new comet
Amateur gets fifth confirmed discovery
Boffins build CYBORG-MOTHRA but not for evil: For search & rescue
This tiny bio-bot will chew through your clothes then save your life
Vulture 2 takes a battering in 100km/h test run
Still in one piece, but we're going to need MORE POWER
What does a flashmob of 1,024 robots look like? Just like this
Sorry, Harvard, did you say kilobots or KILLER BOTS?
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
7 Elements of Radically Simple OS Migration
Avoid the typical headaches of OS migration during your next project by learning about 7 elements of radically simple OS migration.
BYOD's dark side: Data protection
An endpoint data protection solution that adds value to the user and the organization so it can protect itself from data loss as well as leverage corporate data.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?