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Keywords:

  • norovirus;
  • genotyping;
  • enteritis;
  • children;
  • Italy

Abstract

Noroviruses (NoVs) are important enteric pathogens of humans. Although they exhibit an impressive genetic diversity, few NoV strains appear to predominate worldwide. Limited epidemiological data are available on NoV gastroenteritis in Italy. In this study, we assessed the prevalence of human NoV in Italian children with gastroenteritis by using a reverse-transcription nested polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) assay specific for the RNA-dependent RNA polymerase (RdRp) on faecal samples collected throughout the 2004 surveillance activity in Palermo, Italy. NoVs were detected in 47% of the stool samples obtained from children <5 years age, admitted to hospital with acute non-bacterial gastroenteritis. A selection of strains was further analyzed by partial sequence analysis of the RdRp gene. The strains were characterized as genogroup (GG) II and clustered into two distinct virus populations that resembled the emerging European GGIIb/Hilversum strains and the Australian Hunter GGII.4 strains. A temporal pattern of distribution of the two NoV strains was observed which was consistent with an independent circulation of two separate strains in the local population. Based on this 1-year study we concluded that NoVs were a diffuse cause of sporadic cases of acute childhood gastroenteritis and that strains of global epidemiological relevance were circulating in Palermo, Italy in 2004. J. Med. Virol. 78:1656–1662, 2006. © 2006 Wiley-Liss, Inc.