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Curr Opin Infect Dis. 2003 Jun;16(3):241-6.

Calicivirus infections in children.

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Center for Pediatric Research, Eastern Virginia Medical School and Children's Hospital of The King's Daughters, Norfolk, Virginia 23510, USA.



Caliciviruses are a major cause of human illness, and are listed as category B pathogens according to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases classification of pathogens important for biodefense. Caliciviruses are commonly encountered in contaminated food and water, and a large variety has been implicated as sources of infection during outbreak investigations.


New names for two of the four genera of the Caliciviridae were approved in 2002. They are Norovirus, for what were previously called Norwalk-like viruses or small, round-structured viruses, and Sapovirus, for what were previously called Sapporo-like viruses. Caliciviruses are highly diverse genetically and antigenically. This diversity complicates the design of diagnostic assays, yet can be used to discriminate contaminating and infecting strains during outbreak investigations. Of particular interest is the recent finding of naturally occurring recombinant Norovirus strains, all of which have been virulent and are widely dispersed and apparently ecologically indistinguishable from other calicivirus strains. This finding is considered in light of the evidence for recombination between caliciviruses and picornaviruses, and recombination as a more general phenomenon for virus evolution.


Continued investigations of calicivirus outbreaks are now focusing on the implicated sources of infection. While many foods and environmental waters have long been implicated as outbreak sources, the methods for detecting caliciviruses are being developed and refined. Recognition is now turning to unexpected sources of contamination, such as presumably clean foods and waters, including bottled water and minimally handled foods. Parallels between Norovirus and Salmonella ecology and epidemiology are noted, as a guide to understanding evolving new information about caliciviruses.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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