Noroviruses (NVs) are one of the leading causes of epidemic gastroenteritis around the world. Water treatment technologies using membrane filtration for virus removal are becoming increasingly important. However, experiments to test removal of NVs from water have been hampered because NVs do not grow in cell culture or in small-animal models and therefore cannot be easily artificially propagated. Expression of the NV genome in a baculovirus-silkworm expression system has produced recombinant NV virus-like particles (rNV-VLPs) that are morphologically and antigenically similar to native NV. Here, we characterized these rNV-VLPs and evaluated their potential use in assessing NV removal. Electron microscopic analysis and peptide mass fingerprinting showed that the rNV-VLPs were morphologically identical to native NV. In addition, surface charge and particle size distribution, which are important factors for explaining virus particle behavior during membrane filtration, were successfully evaluated by using rNV-VLPs. The rNV-VLPs were easy to quantify with a commercially available enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay kit, they remained stable for several days at 4 °C after dilution in river water, and they were easy to concentrate with the ultrafiltration entrapment method used. Thus, rNV-VLPs can be used to facilitate our understanding of the behavior of NVs during membrane filtration processes.

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