Highly Infectious Membrane-Cloaked “Virus Clusters”

illustration of virus clusters; see caption

CREDIT: MEDICAL ARTS, NIH

Viruses that cause severe stomach illness are transmitted through membrane-cloaked virus clusters rather than through individual virus particles, according to a new NIH study. Shown: illustration of membrane-bound vesicles containing clusters of viruses, including rotavirus (in the large vesicles) and norovirus (in the small vesicles), within the gut.

NIH researchers have found viruses that cause severe stomach illness—including the one infamous for widespread outbreaks on cruise ships—get transmitted among humans through membrane-cloaked “virus clusters” that exacerbate the spread and severity of disease. The discovery of these clusters marks a turning point in the understanding of how these viruses spread and why they are so infectious.

Read more about this and other NIH advances in “Research Briefs.”