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.
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.”
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.