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J Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2009 Oct;24 Suppl 3:S81-5. doi: 10.1111/j.1440-1746.2009.06076.x.

Discovery of rotavirus: Implications for child health.

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Murdoch Childrens Research Institute, Royal Children's Hospital, Melbourne, Vic. 3052, Australia.


For centuries, acute diarrhea has been a major worldwide cause of death in young children, and until 1973, no infectious agents could be identified in about 80% of patients admitted to hospital with severe dehydrating diarrhea. In 1973 Ruth Bishop, Geoffrey Davidson, Ian Holmes, and Brian Ruck identified abundant particles of a 'new' virus (rotavirus) in the cytoplasm of mature epithelial cells lining duodenal villi and in feces, from such children admitted to the Royal Children's Hospital, Melbourne. Rotaviruses have now been shown to cause 40-50% of severe acute diarrhea in young children worldwide in both developing and developed countries, and > 600 000 young children die annually from rotavirus disease, predominantly in South-East Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. Longitudinal surveillance studies following primary infection in young children have shown that rotavirus reinfections are common. However the immune response that develops after primary infection is protective against severe symptoms on reinfection. This observation became the basis for development of live oral rotavirus vaccines. Two safe and effective vaccines are now licensed in 100 countries and in use in 17 countries (including Australia). Rotarix (GSK) is a single attenuated human rotavirus, representative of the most common serotype identified worldwide (G1P[8]). RotaTeq (Merck) is a pentavalent mixture of naturally attenuated bovine/human rotavirus reassortants representing G1, G2, G3, G4, and P(8) serotypes. Preliminary surveillance of the numbers of children requiring hospitalization for severe diarrhea, in USA, Brazil, and Australia, after introduction of these vaccines, encourages the hope that rotavirus infection need no longer be a threat to young children worldwide.

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