BACKGROUND: Noroviruses (NoVs)are important enteric pathogens that cause gastroenteritis worldwide.
The first documented NoV outbreaks in South Africa(SA)were described in 1993. The current NoV prevalence and circulating genotypes are unknown. SA lacks NoV outbreak reporting systems and therefore the number and impact of NoV infections is underestimated.
OBJECTIVES: This study aimed to determine the prevalence and genetic diversity of NoV infections in hospitalised paediatric patients with gastroenteritis in SA during 2008.
STUDY DESIGNN: Stool specimens referred for virological analysis from hospitalised children ≤13 years, with gastroenteritis, were screened for rotavirus, human adenovirus and human astrovirus by enzyme
immunoassay and for NoV genogroup I (GI), II(GII) and sapovirus by real-time RT PCR. NoV strains were genotyped, and variants identified, based on sequence and phylogenetic analyses of the 5' end or the full length of the capsid gene, respectively.
RESULTS: Rotavirus was the most prevalent virus detected in 24.2% (61/252)of specimens, followed by NoV in 14.3% (35/245)and adenovirus, astrovirus and sapovirus in 9.6%, 6.7% and 4% of specimens, respectively.
NoVs were only detected in children ≤2 years. The GII NoVs (89%)predominated and eight types were identified with GII.4 (43%) detected most frequently. The emerging 2008 GII.4 variant represented 80%
of the GII.4 strains.
CONCLUSIONS: A diverse range of NoV genotypes were identified in hospitalised children with gastroenteritis. The 2008 GII.4 variant was the most frequently detected strain in the study. This is the first report of NoV GII.4 viruses in SA.