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J Clin Microbiol. 2009 Dec;47(12):3927-32. doi: 10.1128/JCM.00497-09. Epub 2009 Oct 21.

Multicenter comparison of two norovirus ORF2-based genotyping protocols.

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Bureau of Microbial Hazards, Health Canada, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.


Point source norovirus outbreaks can be difficult to track due to high background levels of the virus in the environment and the limited strain variation in some genotyping regions. However, rapid and accurate source identification can limit the spread of a foodborne outbreak and reduce the number of cases. Harmonization of genotyping assays is critical for enabling the rapid exchange of sequence data nationally and internationally. Several regions of the genome have been proposed for this purpose, but no consensus has been reached. In the present study, two standardized genotyping protocols (region C and region D) were evaluated by nine laboratories in Canada and the United States, using a coded panel of 96 fecal specimens representing 22 different norovirus genotypes. Overall, region C typing had a success rate of 78% compared to 52% for region D; however, region D provides greater nucleotide sequence diversity for identifying new GII.4 variant strains. Significant differences in the genotyping success rate were observed among the nine participating laboratories (10% to 100%) and among the different genotypes (6% to 100%). For several genogroup II strains, reduced region D amplification correlated directly with mismatches between primer sequences and the template. Based on overall performance, we recommend the region C protocol for routine genotyping of noroviruses, while the region D protocol may be useful for identifying new GII.4 variants. Standardized genotyping protocols will enable rapid exchange of outbreak and sequence data through electronic norovirus surveillance networks.

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