'Vomiting bug' vaccine coming for cruise lines

Scientists are closing in on an immunization for the norovirus, a scourge of seafaring vacationers and many others.

By Aimee Picchi Jun 26, 2013 10:49AM

File photo of a Carnival cruise ship in Nassau Harbour, Providence Island, Bahamas (© Paul Brown/Rex Features)Nicknamed the "vomiting bug," the norovirus has become a scourge of the cruise industry -- six ship outbreaks were reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this year alone.

But relief may be coming for cruise lines such as Royal Caribbean Cruises (RCL) and Carnival (CCL) as early-stage studies on a vaccine for the virus are coming to a close this year, reports Bloomberg. 

The good news is that several pharmaceutical companies and researchers are making progress. The bad news? It could be "several years" before the vaccine reaches consumers, Takeda Pharmaceutical (TKPHF) executive Rajeev Venkkaya told the news service. 

One course of shots could give lifelong protection against 95% of the virus' strains. Takeda is furthest along in this pursuit among several companies and researchers, which include UMN Pharma of Japan, Finland's University of Tampere and Arizona State University.

A norovirus vaccine could add as much as $400 million in annual revenue to coffers at Japan's Takeda, Barclays analyst Atsushi Seki told Bloomberg. 

It would also be a boon to the $40 billion cruise industry, which has already been hit with with a public relations disaster over Carnival's so-called poop cruise. Carnival got slammed with negative publicity when its Triumph was stranded for five days in the Gulf of Mexico after an engine fire. Reports of raw sewage running down walls turned stomachs everywhere. 

Last month, Royal Caribbean's Grandeur of the Seas also suffered a fire, adding to the industry's image woes. 

Norovirus affects about 20 million people a year, resulting in 70,000 hospitalizations, the CDC says. It's most common in nursing homes, hospitals and other health care facilities. 

Follow Aimee Picchi on Twitter at @aimeepicchi.

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Jun 26, 2013 2:57PM
Friend of mine had the norovirus back in January.  She threw up almost non-stop for 8 hours and was hospitalized for a week.  A vaccine can't come soon enough!
Jun 26, 2013 2:11PM
I think they should come out with different vaccine shots for every virus cancer disease other health related issues you name it we've got it to stab and inject you for protection. The way how technology is now a days.
Jun 26, 2013 3:45PM
This seems like the magic pill, so to speak, that the obese heifers have been waiting for. All these plus sized behemoths can eat all the double quarter ponders with cheese they want. Pull their mumu over their head, purge and eat again.
Jun 26, 2013 2:56PM
Just another way for the medical field to make money.  
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