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Herwaldt BL, Lew JF, Moe CL, Lewis DC, Humphrey CD, Monroe SS, Pon EW, Glass RI. "Characterization of a variant strain of Norwalk virus from a food-borne outbreak of gastroenteritis on a cruise ship in Hawaii," Journal of Clinical Microbiology, 1994 32:4 (April), 861-6

A gastroenteritis outbreak affecting at least 217 (41%) of 527 passengers on a cruise ship was caused by a variant strain of Norwalk virus (NV) that is related to but distinct from the prototype NV strain. Consumption of fresh-cut fruit served at two buffets was significantly associated with illness (P < or = 0.01), and a significant dose-response relationship was evident between illness and the number of various fresh-cut fruit items eaten. Seven (58%) of 12 paired serum specimens from ill persons demonstrated at least fourfold rises in antibody response to recombinant NV capsid antigen. A 32-nm small round-structured virus was visualized by electron microscopy in 4 (29%) of 14 fecal specimens, but none of the 8 specimens that were examined by an enzyme immunoassay for NV antigen demonstrated antigen. Four (40%) of 10 fecal specimens were positive by reverse transcriptase-PCR by using primer pairs selected from the polymerase region of NV. In a 145-bp region, the PCR product shared only 72% nucleotide sequence identity with the reference NV strain and 77% nucleotide sequence identity with Southampton virus but shared 95% nucleotide sequence identity with UK2 virus, a United Kingdom reference virus strain. In addition, the outbreak virus was serotyped as UK2 virus by solid-phase immune electron microscopy. The genetic and antigenic divergence of the outbreak strain from the reference NV strain highlights the need for more broadly reactive diagnostic assays and for improved understanding of the relatedness of the NV group of agents.