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PLoS One. 2013;8(3):e59394. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0059394. Epub 2013 Mar 25.

Epidemiology and evolution of rotaviruses and noroviruses from an archival WHO Global Study in Children (1976-79) with implications for vaccine design.

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  • 1Laboratory of Infectious Diseases (LID), National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), National Institutes of Health (NIH), Bethesda, Maryland, United States of America.


Prompted by the discovery of new gastrointestinal viruses, the NIH, NIAID and WHO investigated the etiology of acute diarrhea that occurred from 1976-1979 in a global cohort of infants and young children. Rotaviruses were found to be major pathogens worldwide, whereas the Norwalk virus could not be detected using a radioimmunoassay. The aim of this study is to re-evaluate the role and diversity of rotaviruses and noroviruses in the original cohort using more sensitive current technologies. Stools collected from Asia, Africa, and South America (n = 485) were evaluated for viral genotypes by RT-PCR and sequencing. Rotaviruses were detected in 28.9% and noroviruses in 9.7% of the specimens, with G1 rotaviruses and GII noroviruses accounting for the majority of each respective virus. Various strains in this study predated the currently assigned dates of discovery for their particular genotype, and in addition, two noroviruses (KL45 and T091) could not be assigned to current genotypes. Phylogenetic analyses demonstrated a relative constancy in circulating rotavirus genotypes over time, with several genotypes from this study becoming established in the current repertoire of viral species. Similarly, GII noroviruses have maintained dominance, with GII.4 noroviruses continuing as a predominant genotype over time. Taken together, the complex molecular epidemiology of rotaviruses and noroviruses circulating in the 1970's is consistent with current patterns, an important consideration in the design of multivalent vaccines to control these viruses.

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