Norovirus outbreaks, or more commonly known as the stomach flu, have been pretty rampant over the last couple of months, pushing schools all across the country to close down for unmentioned periods of time.
Affecting people of all ages, infections of the virus are known for causing projectile vomiting, low-grade fever and water diarrhea, with the first of which is the most effective way of spreading the virus to other people.
And while the disease itself can be cured within 24 to 48 hours, it’s still very much dangerous. In fact, it’s a leading cause of childhood illness and is responsible for about 50,000 child deaths each year.
Did you know that your blood type has a say in whether the virus can affect you or not?
When the virus is ingested into our body, it immediately targets the cells that line our small intestine, which then causes the common symptoms to start (although how it does this, researchers are yet to find out).
What’s interesting, however, is your blood type determines a large part whether you will get sick after exposure.
This is because your blood type, be it O, AB, A or B, is dictated by genes that choose what kind of molecules called oligosaccharide will be found on the surface of your red blood cells. Made from different types of sugar that are clumped together in complex and unique ways, these oligosaccharides are the same ones that can be found on the surface of cells that line the small intestine. And the specific structures of these molecules determine whether the virus can attach to our body and invade.
As such, the oligosaccharide called the H1-antigen is observed as the main type of oligosaccharide that many norovirus strains can attach themselves to. Because of this, people who don’t have the H1-antigen make up around 20 percent of the population that can’t be affected by norovirus infections.
When it comes to blood type, however, people who can attach more sugars to their H1-antigen are A, B or AB blood types, while those who can’t make such modifications have the O blood type. This immune response is found to be short-lived, making the development of vaccine a hard challenge.