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J Infect Dis. 2008 Oct 1;198(7):994-1001. doi: 10.1086/591627.

High prevalence of prolonged norovirus shedding and illness among hospitalized patients: a model for in vivo molecular evolution.

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  • 1National Institute for Public Health and the Environment, The Netherlands.

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  • J Infect Dis. 2008 Nov 15;198(10):1575.


During a 2-year survey in an academic hospital, 8 (8.4%) of all norovirus (NoV)-positive patients showed prolonged norovirus illness and shedding (duration, 21-182 days). All patients had underlying illnesses, resulting in some level of immunodeficiency in 5. Four patients were admitted to the hospital with gastroenteritis, 2 acquired norovirus while hospitalized, and 2 were outpatients. Genotypes GII.4 and GIIb-GII.3 were found. Reinfection occurred in 3 patients. Full capsid sequences were determined from strains detected in sequentially collected stool specimens to study evolution. The greatest number of amino acid mutations in a given patient was 11; they were detected in NoV isolates recovered over a 119-day period and were mapped to positions at or near putative antigenic sites. In the patient with most severe immune dysfunction, only 5 amino acids mutated over 182 days, suggesting immune-driven selection. The severe impact on patients and hospitals and the potential role of prolonged shedders as a reservoir for viral antigenic variants lead us to stress the importance of confinement of outbreaks of NoV infection that occur in hospitals.

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