Norovirus Disease: Changing Epidemiology and Host Susceptibility Factors

Trends Microbiol. 2004 Jun;12(6):279-87. doi: 10.1016/j.tim.2004.04.005.


Noroviruses cause the majority of acute viral gastroenteritis cases that occur worldwide. The increased recognition of noroviruses as the cause of outbreaks and sporadic disease is due to the recent availability of improved norovirus-specific diagnostics. Transmission of these viruses is facilitated by their high prevalence in the community, shedding of infectious virus particles from asymptomatic individuals and the high stability of the virus in the environment. Currently, the spectrum of clinical disease and the understanding of host susceptibility factors are changing. Cases of chronic norovirus gastroenteritis have been observed in transplant recipients and unusual clinical presentations have been recognized in otherwise healthy adults that are under physical stress. Recently, noroviruses were found to bind to gut-expressed carbohydrates, leading to a correlation between a person's genetically determined carbohydrate expression and their susceptibility to Norwalk virus infection. Greater community surveillance and further investigation of carbohydrate receptor-binding properties could provide further insights into norovirus transmission, susceptibility and pathogenesis, and should aid in developing vaccines and antiviral therapies for this common viral disease.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Caliciviridae Infections / epidemiology*
  • Caliciviridae Infections / virology
  • Disease Susceptibility
  • Disease Transmission, Infectious
  • Gastroenteritis / epidemiology*
  • Gastroenteritis / virology*
  • Humans
  • Norovirus / pathogenicity*
  • Receptors, Virus / chemistry
  • Receptors, Virus / genetics


  • Receptors, Virus