Researchers: Pizza Herb Could Prevent 'Winter Vomiting Disease'

Carvacrol, which is found in oregano oil, could help stave off norovirus, the leading cause of vomiting and diarrhea.

Closeup of freshly baked homemade pizza

Carvacrol, a chemical found in oregano oil, could help stem the spread of norovirus, the leading cause of vomiting and diarrhea around the world, researchers say.

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The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles may have been onto something.

A natural chemical in oregano oil – which gives pizza its delicious flavor and smell – could help prevent the spread of norovirus, the so-called “winter vomiting disease” that’s the top cause of vomiting and diarrhea illnesses around the world – and the one that made recent headlines after sickening more than 600 passengers aboard a Royal Caribbean cruise ship.

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Researchers from the University of Arizona found that the chemical, carvacrol, breaks down a tough outer coat of proteins that shield the norovirus, allowing antimicrobial disinfectants to then go in and kill it.

The catch: carvacrol works when used as a sanitizer like Lysol, not when eaten with pizza.

“Carvacrol could potentially be used as a food sanitizer and possibly as a surface sanitizer, possibly in conjunction with other microbials,” Dr. Kelly Bright, who led the research project, said in a statement. “We have some work to do to assess its potential, but carvacrol has a unique way of attacking the virus, which makes it an interesting prospect.”

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The chemical, unlike bleach and alcohol-based cleaners, would be both odorless and noncorrosive, making it a potentially good choice for schools, hospitals, day-care centers, and rehab and long-term care facilities.