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Clin Microbiol Infect. 2003 Apr;9(4):247-62.

Viruses causing gastroenteritis.

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Servicio de Microbiología, Instituto de Salud Carlos III, Sección de Virus Productores de Gastroenteritis, Madrid, Spain.


Acute gastroenteritis is one of the most common diseases in humans worldwide. Viruses are recognized as important causes of this disease, particularly in children. Since the Norwalk virus was identified as a cause of gastroenteritis, the number of viral agents associated with diarrheal disease in humans has steadily increased. Rotavirus is the most common cause of severe diarrhea in children under 5 years of age. Astrovirus, calicivirus and enteric adenovirus are also important etiologic agents of acute gastroenteritis. Other viruses, such as toroviruses, coronaviruses, picobirnaviruses and pestiviruses, are increasingly being identified as causative agents of diarrhea. In recent years, the availability of diagnostic tests, mainly immunoassays or molecular biology techniques, has increased our understanding of this group of viruses. The future development of a safe and highly effective vaccine against rotavirus could prevent, at least, cases of severe diarrhea and reduce mortality from this disease.

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