Dogs May Be Able To Transmit Human Norovirus

Because the human norovirus can affect canines, it’s possible that dogs themselves can give the virus to humans, according to new research.

The finding was published in the Journal of Clinical Microbiology, a publication of the American Society for Microbiology.

Norovirus is the leading cause of food-borne illness in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

First author Sarah Caddy, VetMB, PhD, MRCVS, a veterinarian and PhD student at the University of Cambridge, and Imperial College, London, UK, said that the research showed that some dogs can “mount an immune response” to human norovirus.  “This strongly suggests that these dogs have been infected with the virus,” she said. “We also confirmed that that human norovirus can bind to the cells of the canine gut, which is the first step required for infection of cells.”

But while the dogs can get the human norovirus, it’s not yet known whether it can actually make them ill. It’s also unknown whether a dog could “shed” the virus in enough quantity to infect a human, according to a release from the American Society for Microbiology.

The impetus for the study came from her veterinary practice, and her status as a dog owner, said Caddy. “As a small animal veterinarian, I am often asked by dog owners if they might be able to pass infections onto their dogs, or if their dogs are contagious to them,” said Caddy. “There are plenty of anecdotal cases of dogs and humans in the same household, having simultaneous gastroenteritis, but very little rigorous scientific research is conducted in this area.Until more definitive data is available, sensible hygiene precautions should be taken around pets, especially when gastroenteritis in either humans or dogs is present in a household.”

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