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Gastrointestinal Infection by the Astroviridae Virus Family

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  • 0:05 The Astroviridae Virus Family
  • 0:35 Astroviridae Structure…
  • 1:34 Viral Gastroenteritis
  • 4:10 Treatment and Prevention
  • 5:14 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Artem Cheprasov
This lesson will focus on something more commonly known as the stomach flu, its more technical name, and how it is spread. We'll also delve into some of the ways we can prevent the stomach flu from affecting us. Find out more as we look into viral gastroenteritis, chlorination, and serotypes.

The Astroviridae Virus Family

Let's board our ship, called the Astroship, to visit a distant star called 'Astro.' As we approach this star, we notice that there are planets revolving around it. These planets have little beings on them who are always running around like crazy. They never stop running either. Ever. That's because these poor little beings constantly have the runs caused by viruses of the Astroviridae family.

Astroviridae Structure and Transmission

Under the microscope, viruses of this family have an icosahedral structure that looks like a five- or a six-pointed star; that's why this virus family derives its name from the prefix 'astro-,' which means 'star.' These viruses are also non-enveloped, which means they're hard to kill when compared to enveloped viruses, and they have a single-stranded, positive-sense RNA genome.

In addition, these viruses are transmitted by the orofecal route. This basically means that if the little beings on this far-out planet eat or drink something contaminated by feces laden with this virus, they will then get the virus themselves. The way this virus spreads from feces to mouth and back again should really makes sense since the most common problem the viruses in this family cause are the runs!

Viral Gastroenteritis

These runs occur due to the fact that the little aliens have the stomach flu. A more technical term for the stomach flu is 'viral gastroenteritis.' This term implies that it is a condition caused by a virus that causes inflammation, '-itis,' of the stomach, 'gastro-,' and intestines, '-entero.' In fact, astroviruses are one of the most common causes of viral gastroenteritis in small children. There are many different serotypes of astroviruses that cause this condition. A serotype, also called a serovar, is a set of microorganisms distinguished by their specific antigens.

Here is what this mouthful of a definition really means. We are one species, the Homo sapiens. However, we all dress a bit differently. This surface-level representation of who we are, the dress code so to speak, is what our antigens are. The fact that we all dress differently, or have different antigens, means we are all uniquely recognizable as a subspecies of sort based on our dress code. Hence, a group of people who dress the same unique way (the viruses that have the same unique antigens) are called serotypes of that species of virus.

In any case, regardless of how you dress, if you've ever had the stomach flu, then you probably know the common symptoms of a viral infection of your digestive system. These include abdominal cramps, headaches, fever, vomiting and diarrhea.

Now that you know that, or gleefully reminisce about a case of stomach flu you had yourself, it should make sense why these viruses spread via the orofecal route. If you have the runs, the virus is excreted out the back end. This contaminates everything, including the water in the toilet bowl, with viruses ready to infect another human being.

If a person then drinks improperly sanitized water or puts food or fingers contaminated by this virus into their mouth, the virus will travel down into the digestive system, where it will cause the same set of problems. This is why all the people in our far-out planets are running around like crazy! They clearly had no idea that something like this could happen.

Treatment and Prevention

Since we are a bit more advanced than the little beings on the planets we are visiting, we decide to lend them a helping hand. As we touch down onto one of their planets, a representative of their government quickly runs up to our mothership, hands us a note and quickly runs off to the nearest bathroom.

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