New Smartphone-Based Device May Help Detect Norovirus on Cruise Ships

Commonly known as the the ‘cruise ship’ microbe because of its frequent outbreaks on the high seas, norovirus is simply no fun to get while you’re on vacation.

It’s nasty virus responsible for vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain and dehydration – and can target both passengers and crewmembers alike. The virus can spread quickly within cruise ship bathrooms, buffet areas and other places on the ship. Cleaning the ship takes time, generally requires infected areas to be quarantined or closed down and…news of the outbreak typically gets coverage on numerous media outlets.

Because it’s a virus, it is often difficult to detect – and usually isn’t noticed until people become sick.

But researchers now may be able to detect small particles of the virus with a smart phone.

Here’s how it works (quoted from an article in

“Researchers converted an ordinary smartphone into a fluorescence microscope by attaching a commercially available light microscope accessory, a separate light source and two band-pass filters. To a channel of their paper microfluidic chip, they added a water sample containing norovirus. Then, the researchers added a suspension of fluorescent beads with antibodies against norovirus attached to them. The capillary action of the paper caused the two liquids to flow and mix. Each individual norovirus particle bound to multiple fluorescent beads via their attached antibodies, causing the beads to aggregate and produce a much larger size of fluorescent image. They also developed a cloud-computing app to analyze the large images and send the results back to the smartphone. In addition, they found a way to concentrate samples within the paper chip so they can analyze much larger sample volumes.”

Read the entire article here.

With a handheld device, cruise lines could direct staff to sweep common areas looking for potential virus outbreaks.