Pizza Herb Could Help Curb Foodborne Illness

Norovirus particles have a tough outer shell that makes them persistent in the environment and difficult to eliminate. (Photo: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
Norovirus particles have a tough outer shell that makes them persistent in the environment and difficult to eliminate. (Photo: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

A study led by University of Arizona researcher Kelly Bright has found that carvacrol – the substance in oregano oil that gives the pizza herb its distinctive warm and aromatic smell and flavor – is effective against norovirus, causing the breakdown of the virus’ tough outer coat. The research is published in the Society for Applied Microbiology’s Journal of Applied Microbiology.

Norovirus, also known as the winter vomiting disease, is the leading cause of vomiting and diarrhea around the world. It is particularly problematic in nursing homes, hospitals, cruise ships and schools, and is the most common cause of foodborne-disease outbreaks. Although the disease is unpleasant, most people recover fully within a few days. But for people with an existing serious medical problem, this highly infectious virus can be dangerous.

"Carvacrol could potentially be used as a food sanitizer and possibly as a surface sanitizer, particularly in conjunction with other antimicrobials," said Kelly Bright, an associate research scientist in the Department of Soil, Water and Environmental Science, part of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. "We have some work to do to assess its potential but carvacrol is an interesting prospect."

The human form of norovirus is challenging to work with and is resistant to most antimicrobials, like hydrogen peroxide, bleach, ammonia and alcohol.

"It's is a very tough virus," Bright said. "Norovirus can survive for weeks and even months in the environment, which makes it so prevalent on cruise ships and sometimes causes repeat outbreaks. When a ship returns to port after an outbreak, they clean it from top to bottom to remove the contamination, but it is sometimes impossible to get it all, especially on carpeted and upholstered surfaces."

Read more from this February 11 UANews article at the link below.

Date released: 
Feb 12 2014
Contact: 
Kelly Bright