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Zoonoses, food- and waterborne emerging epidemics

Pro viding tools to prevent emergence of enteric viruses

EC contribution
: € 2 437 941
: 48 months
Starting date
: September 1, 2004
: IP
: norovirus, outbreak, food-borne virus, emerging viruses
Project Number
: SP22-CT-2004-502571


Gastroenteritis is one of the most common diseases worldwide. The majority of episodes are caused by pathogens, such as viruses, bacteria and parasites, of which the main transmission route is faecal-oral. This can result in personto- person spread, but it is also spread via faecal contaminated surfaces, food or water. Although food and water is monitored for bacterial contamination, a large proportion of outbreaks of food-related illness are caused by viruses, especially Norovirus and hepatitis A. There is growing evidence that viruses slip through the food quality control net. In the EVENT project, the partners are developing methods and a database infrastructure to unravel modes of transmission by understanding genetic diversity and evolution of enteric viruses that are or may be transmitted through the food chain.


Noroviruses are the major cause of outbreaks of acute vomiting and diarrhoea, many of which are reported particularly during winter. Although the main mode of transmission is from person to person, waterborne and particularly foodborne spreads are common as well. Norovirus can cause large international outbreaks, and international food-borne and waterborne transmission may play an important role in the dissemination of new genetic variants, which additionally spread in the population by personto- person transmission. As such, Noroviruses serve as model pathogens, illustrating where and how food-borne transmission may occur.

More challenging are other viruses with a longer incubation time and lower rate of clinical infection, such as hepatitis A and E. These viruses may cause severe illness, but linking this to food-borne transmission is very difficult without the use of molecular characterisation and linking of data.

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