Digging through baby poo in the name of science

Boing Boing guestblogger Connie Choe is a health and culture writer by day and a professional kimchimonger by night.

The nice folks over at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) have gone through and screened over five thousand samples of frozen baby poop dating back to 1974 in an effort to find out how fast norovirus (the bug responsible for stomach flu) is evolving.

The stool samples have been maintained in a unique collection by NIAID's Albert Z. Kapikian, M.D., the doctor responsible for identifying norovirus back in 1972. What the researchers discovered about this group of rapidly evolving and mutating bugs could help them to eventually develop antiviral drugs or even a vaccine against this "very unpleasant" and "sometimes deadly" disease.

Dr. K must be pretty excited that his baby poo collection is finally going to good use, but can you imagine all the muttering and dirty looks he must have endured from his lab assistants for all those years? Kudos to you, Dr. Kapikian, for your foresight and thick skin. Emetophobes, school teachers and cruise ship passengers around the world will join together in songs of your praise when they no longer have to fear the wrath of stomach flu.

Frozen Assets: Decades-old Frozen Infant Stool Samples Provide Clues To Norovirus Evolution.