Feeds

Brit boffins build projectile-vomiting robot to kill norovirus

Artificial 3m spew offers infection insight

Build a business case: developing custom apps

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. ®

Boost IT visibility and business value

More from The Register

next story
Just TWO climate committee MPs contradict IPCC: The two with SCIENCE degrees
'Greenhouse effect is real, but as for the rest of it ...'
Asteroid's DINO KILLING SPREE just bad luck – boffins
Sauricide WASN'T inevitable, reckon scientists
Flamewars in SPAAACE: cooler fires hint at energy efficiency
Experiment aboard ISS shows we should all chill out for cleaner engines
Brit amateur payload set to complete full circle around PLANET EARTH
Ultralight solar radio tracker in glorious 25,000km almost-space odyssey
NASA Mars rover FINALLY equals 1973 Soviet benchmark
Yet to surpass ancient Greek one, however
Famous 'Dish' radio telescope to be emptied in budget crisis: CSIRO
Radio astronomy suffering to protect Square Kilometre Array
BEST BATTERY EVER: All lithium, all the time, plus a dash of carbon nano-stuff
We have found the Holy Grail (of batteries) - boffins
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.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.
Maximize storage efficiency across the enterprise
The HP StoreOnce backup solution offers highly flexible, centrally managed, and highly efficient data protection for any enterprise.