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J Infect. 2004 May;48(4):289-302.

The zoonotic potential of rotavirus.

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Central Science Laboratory, Sand Hutton, York YO41 1LZ, UK.


Rotaviruses are generally species-specific, but cross-species transmission is possible, as has been demonstrated experimentally. Several case studies have indicated infection of humans by animal rotaviruses. Comparison of genetic sequences of human and animal rotaviruses often reveals close identity. Surveillance of circulating rotaviruses in the human population has revealed the presence of several uncommon genotypes. Many of these have been found in domestic animals, and it is possible that they arose in the human population through zoonotic transmission. The low incidence of uncommon strains would suggest that such transmission, or at least the establishment of an animal rotavirus or a human/animal reassortant virus in the human population, does not happen with any great frequency. However, many millions of people will be exposed year on year to animal rotaviruses. This happens within farming communities, and potentially to visitors to the countryside. There may be some measure of environmental contamination through livestock excrement. This exposure may not result in high levels of infection, but some infection could occur. There may be a continual input of rotavirus strains or sequences into the human population from the animal population albeit at a very low level.

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