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Oregano Compound May Help Fight Norovirus

Oregano Compound

Norovirus is a very contagious virus and the most common cause of acute gastroenteritis in the United States. Researchers have found one compound that may actually breakdown norovirus, and it comes from a very common herb - oregano.

Carvacrol is the substance in oregano oil that gives the herb its distinctive aromatic smell and flavor. Researchers with the University of Arizona have found that carvacrol causes the breakdown of norovirus’ tough outer coat. The ingredient could potentially become the primary active ingredient in a specialized sanitizer product, says Dr. Kelly Bright who led the research.

Carvacrol would likely be used in conjunction with another microbial. After the outer layer of proteins is destroyed, another product would then enter to the internal part of the virus and kill it. Carvacrol was also found to be slower-acting than many disinfectants, so it would be best used as part of a routine cleaning regimen to provide long-lasting antimicrobial residue on surfaces.

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Many bacteria and viruses today have developed resistance to our current methods for destroying them. However, the team at the University of Arizona found that because carvacrol works on the external proteins of the virus, the norovirus is less likely to develop this resistance. It is also safe and non-corrosive and does not produce any noxious fumes or harmful by-products.

Norovirus is the leading cause of vomiting and diarrhea around the world. It is particularly problematic where large groups of people come together, such as in nursing homes, hospitals, schools and cruise ships. Most people recover fully within a few days, but for people with an existing serious medical problem, the highly infectious virus can be deadly.

The best way to prevent contracting norovirus is to practice proper hand hygiene. Wash hands carefully with soap and water frequently throughout the day, but especially before eating, preparing or handling food. Alcohol based hand sanitizers can be used in addition to hand washing, but never as a substitute.

Journal Reference:
Bright K, Gilling D, Masaaki K, Jason T. Antiviral efficacy and mechanisms of action of organo essential oil and its primary component carvacrol against murine norovirus. Journal of Applied Microbiology. 2014.

Additional Resource:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention