Enteric bacteria promote human and mouse norovirus infection of B cells

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Science  07 Nov 2014:
Vol. 346, Issue 6210, pp. 755-759
DOI: 10.1126/science.1257147

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Bacteria help norovius infect B cells

Stomach ache, nausea, diarrhea—many people know the sort of gastrointestinal havoc norovirus can wreak. Despite this, norovirus biology remains unclear, because human norovirus cannot be grown in culture. Jones et al. now report that with the help of bacteria, human norovirus can infect cultured B cells (see the Perspective by Robinson and Pfeiffer). To infect B cells, human norovirus required the presence of gut bacteria that expressed proteins involved in determining blood type. Mouse norovirus also infected B cells, and the treatment of mice with antibiotics protected them from norovirus infection.

Science, this issue p. 755; see also p. 700


The cell tropism of human noroviruses and the development of an in vitro infection model remain elusive. Although susceptibility to individual human norovirus strains correlates with an individual’s histo-blood group antigen (HBGA) profile, the biological basis of this restriction is unknown. We demonstrate that human and mouse noroviruses infected B cells in vitro and likely in vivo. Human norovirus infection of B cells required the presence of HBGA-expressing enteric bacteria. Furthermore, mouse norovirus replication was reduced in vivo when the intestinal microbiota was depleted by means of oral antibiotic administration. Thus, we have identified B cells as a cellular target of noroviruses and enteric bacteria as a stimulatory factor for norovirus infection, leading to the development of an in vitro infection model for human noroviruses.

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