The USDA-NIFA Food Virology Collaborative (NoroCORE- Norovirus Collaborative for Outreach, Research, and Education) is a food safety initiative with the ultimate goal to reduce the burden of food borne disease associated with viruses, particularly noroviruses. Our team is comprised of more than 30 lead scientists and their teams from more than 18 institutions, with NCSU serving as the lead institution. It is funded by a $25 million CAP grant from the USDA. We have numerous stakeholders from academia, industry, and the government. Our team is working in a highly integrated, multi-disciplinary manner to develop improved tools, skills, and capacity to understand and control food borne virus risks. Our activities fall into six Cores that reflect the Collaborative’s primary objectives: Molecular Virology, Detection, Epidemiology & Risk Analysis, Prevention & Control, Extension & Outreach, and Capacity Building.
NoroCORE has six primary objectives, each with specific, defined activities. Collaborating team members work towards one or more of these activities, and most activities have several team members working on them from unique, complementary approaches.
Molecular Virology Core
Develop improved methods to facilitate the study of food borne viruses and to further elucidate the significance of viral food borne disease.
• Develop a human norovirus (HuNoV) in vitro cultivation system
• Validate alternative cultivable HuNoV surrogates
• Identification of agents potentially associated with food borne (viral) disease of unknown etiology
• Develop mathematical models to predict HuNoV emergence and virulence
Develop and validate sensitive, rapid, and practical methods to detect and genotype HuNoV in relevant sample matrices.
• Develop simple, practical, broadly reactive detection methods for human clinical samples
• Develop simple, practical, and broadly reactive detection methods for relevant non-clinical sample matrices
• Validate and recommend method(s) to discriminate infectious from non-infectious virus
• Methods validation (clinical and environmental/food samples)
• Develop microarray method(s) for identification of FBV and/or emerging variant strains
Epidemiology and Risk Analysis Core
Collect and analyze population data on the burden of virus-associated disease, including epidemiological attribution and characterization of risk and costs.
• Develop and apply quantitative risk models
• Estimate economic burden of HuNoV food borne disease outbreaks
• Estimate endemic HuNoV disease burden
• Estimate epidemic HuNoV disease burden
• Prepare preliminary HuNoV epidemiological attribution model
Prevention & Control Core
Improve understanding the occurrence and behavior of HuNoV in the food safety continuum so as to inform development of scientifically justifiable control measures.
• Evaluate and monitor virus occurrence pre- and post-harvest, including alternative microbiological indicators
• Develop/evaluate novel antiviral agents for hand and surface disinfection in collaboration with industrial partners
• Test efficacy of candidate technologies to remove and/or inactivate viruses and their surrogates in foods (pilot scale)
• Move promising processing technologies toward commercialization using stage-gate approach
Extension & Outreach Core
Translate and disseminate new knowledge about food borne viruses into practices that reach target audiences in relevant work environments and across a wide array of stakeholder groups.
• Educational interventions targeting the retail and institutional food sectors to prevent virus contamination of foods
• Develop consumer food safety materials updated to reflect emerging information on food borne viruses
• Develop curriculum and materials to educate food safety and public health professionals (train-the-trainer)
• Extension and outreach efforts to fresh produce industry
• Extension and outreach efforts to molluscan shellfish industry
• Evaluate behavioral changes
Education and Capacity Building Core
Build scientific and human capacity to support increased and sustained efforts in food virology.
• Create a mechanism to foster reagent, protocol, and information exchange
• Expand state and public health laboratory capacity in food virology
• Expand professional capacity with a focus on increasing diversity
• Develop graduate level Inter-disciplinary curriculum in food virology
NoroCORE is funded by a 5 year, $25 million CAP (Coordinated Agricultural Project) grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture-National Institute of Food and Agriculture (USDA-NIFA). The Collaborative was formed in 2011 with North Carolina State University serving as the lead institution. Dr. Lee-Ann Jaykus of NCSU functions as the lead investigator and Scientific Director for the project. Collaborating institutions hail from a number of institutions across the U.S., combing the expertise of top scientists in the field.
The project is designed to reflect the “New Biology” approach to science, which is characterized by highly collaborative, integrated, and interdisciplinary efforts that seek to provide real solutions to complex and relevant societal problems, including improvement in human health. A key feature of NoroCORE is its commitment to Education and Extension/Outreach goals, not just research.
The project is currently in its third year. Significant progress has been made to date, with most of the “ground work” set and critical mass met for even greater strides over the coming years. Longer-term goals, such as many of the activities in the Prevention & Control and Extension and Education Cores, will begin to be realized in the latter years of the project based on the research advances made to date, and the groundwork now being laid for these activities.
The NoroCORE logo was developed in conjunction with a local design company. Each part of the logo has a specific meaning. The words “Food Virology” highlight food virology as a distinct subdiscipline of food microbiology. The pitchfork and fork represent the “farm-to-fork continuum,” which refers to the chain that food follows from its production on the farm (the pitchfork); through any harvesting, production, processing, handling, and serving steps that it encounters; up to the point of consumption (the fork). This continuum is important because each of the “steps” represents a potential point of contamination where viruses may be introduced to food items, and therefore represents an important control point for ensuring food safety. The lower-case letter “o” in “Noro” is represented by images of the norovirus particle, as norovirus is the main focus of the Collaborative’s efforts (with other food borne viruses of interest as well). Blue and white are the NoroCORE “brand” colors, in keeping with the standard colors for healthcare fields.
The norovirus particle image was created by Dr. Jean-Yves Sgro of the Institute for Virology, University of Wisconsin Madison. It was generated using RASMOL software and is based on X-Ray crystallography data. This data is based on a publication by Dr. B.V. Prasad, co-authored by one of the NoroCORE Collaborators (Prasad, B.V., Hardy, M.E., Dokland, T., Bella, J., Rossmann, M.G., Estes, M.K. X-ray crystallographic structure of the Norwalk virus capsid. (1999) Science 286: 287-290). Dr. Sgro kindly granted us permission to use this image in the NoroCORE logo and on our materials. The logo and particle appear in our logo; on educational materials; and in promotional materials used to increase awareness of the NoroCORE project- all in support of our mission to reduce the burden of food borne viral disease. We thank Dr. Sgro for the generous use of his artwork.