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Epidemiol Infect. 2017 Jun;145(8):1591-1596. doi: 10.1017/S0950268817000498. Epub 2017 Mar 15.

A large outbreak of acute gastroenteritis in Shippensburg, Pennsylvania, 1972 revisited: evidence for common source exposure to a recombinant GII.Pg/GII.3 norovirus.

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Caliciviruses Section,Laboratory of Infectious Diseases,National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health,Bethesda, MD,USA.


Historical outbreaks can be an important source of information in the understanding of norovirus evolution and epidemiology. Here, we revisit an outbreak of undiagnosed gastroenteritis that occurred in Shippensburg, Pennsylvania in 1972. Nearly 5000 people fell ill over the course of 10 days. Symptoms included diarrhea, vomiting, stomach cramps, and fever, lasting for a median of 24 h. Using current techniques, including next-generation sequencing of full-length viral genomic amplicons, we identified an unusual norovirus recombinant (GII.Pg/GII.3) in nine of 15 available stool samples from the outbreak. This particular recombinant virus has not been reported in recent decades, although GII.3 and GII.Pg genotypes have been detected individually in current epidemic strains. The consensus nucleotide sequences were nearly identical among the four viral genomes analysed, although each strain had three to seven positions in the genome with heterogenous non-synonymous nucleotide subpopulations. Two of these resulting amino acid polymorphisms were conserved in frequency among all four cases, consistent with common source exposure and successful transmission of a mixed viral population. Continued investigation of variant nucleotide populations and recombination events among ancestral norovirus strains such as the Shippensburg virus may provide unique insight into the origin of contemporary strains.


Norwalk agent and related viruses; caliciviruses; gastroenteritis; noroviruses

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