Annual incidence, serotype distribution, and genetic diversity of human astrovirus isolates from hospitalized children in Melbourne, Australia.

Department of Gastroenterology, Royal Children's Hospital, Parkville, Victoria, Australia.
Journal of Clinical Microbiology (Impact Factor: 4.23). 08/1996; 34(7):1750-3.
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT The incidence of astrovirus infection in children under 5 years of age hospitalized for acute gastroenteritis in Melbourne, Australia, during 1995 was determined. Astrovirus was detected in 16 fecal specimens by Northern (RNA) dot blot analysis of RNA isolated from feces with an astrovirus-specific cDNA probe. The incidence of astrovirus infection was determined as 4.2% (16 of 378 total samples) compared with rates of 63.2, 3.7, and 4.2% for rotavirus, adenovirus, and all bacterial pathogens, respectively. Astrovirus was detected during the winter season and mainly in infants between 6 and 12 months of age. Serotyping of samples was carried out by reverse transcriptase PCR and direct sequencing of a 348-bp region of the capsid protein gene. Type 1 strains predominated (11 of 13 typeable samples), although type 4 isolates were also detected. Astrovirus was retrospectively identified in 13 fecal samples collected from hospitalized infants between 1980 and 1985 and shown to contain small viruses by electron microscopy. Type 1 isolates were again the most common, although a type 5 strain was also found. Comparative sequence analysis indicated that type 1 astroviruses exhibited up to 7% sequence divergence over a 15-year period; however, all mutations were silent. The incidence of astrovirus reported here indicates that the virus is a significant cause of severe diarrhea in young children. The genetic analysis also provides important molecular epidemiological information relevant to the development of preventative therapies.

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