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Zoonoses, food- and waterborne emerging epidemics

Prevention of emerging (food-borne) enteric viral infections: diagnoses, viability testing, networking and epidemiology

EC contribution
: € 471 185,20
: 42 months
Starting date
: June 1, 2004
: IP
: norovirus, outbreak, food-borne virus, emerging viruses
Project Number
: 2003213


Noroviruses cause gastroenteritis and are notorious for their propensity to cause outbreaks of illness in healthcare settings, restaurants and cruise ships, among others. The DIVINE project was developed to provide meaningful data about the surveillance of this increasingly prevalent disease. While there is a great diversity of noroviruses, both in humans and animals, little was known about the population structure of these viruses in Europe; this knowledge is needed to understand sources and modes of transmission. Therefore, DIVINE was coupled with the research project EVENT to allow more in-depth analysis of the data collected through routine surveillance activities.

Truly integrated virological and epidemiological data collection was successfully accomplished in 10 of the 13 participating countries. Norovirus GII.4 strains were found to be the dominant cause of outbreaks of vomiting and diarrhoea in hospitals and other healthcare settings, whereas a broader diversity was seen in outbreaks in other settings and transmission routes. The real added value of the integrated reporting was the ability to distinguish patterns of outbreaks based on the molecular information. The DIVINE-Net partners found that a substantial proportion of outbreaks is related to food-borne transmission, including diffuse outbreaks resulting from consumption of imported foods. This is of concern because the currently used control mechanisms are insufficient to detect and/or predict presence or absence of viruses in the food chain.

For the successful intervention in the case of diffuse international outbreaks, completeness and timeliness of reporting would need to be improved and expanded to countries that are not currently participating. Following the decision not to continue surveillance of Norovirus outbreaks by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), the scientific community agreed to launch a global collaboration following the model developed through this network in order to study the evolution of these viruses in an international context.

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