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Consultant Laboratory for Rotaviruses

Claus-Thomas Bock

Rotavirus infections are related worldwide to one fourth of all gastroenteritis-associated hospitalisations of infants and small children. Rotaviruses of group A cause around 111 million cases of gastroenteritis, 2 million cases of hospitalisation and approximately 420,000 cases of death in children under the age of 5 worldwide, of whom approximately half originate from Africa. In Germany rotaviruses contribute to a considerable extent to the morbidity of infants and small children; deaths are, however, rare. Rotavirus infections occur primarily in spring. The virus is transmitted faecally-orally, in particular through smear infections, but also through contaminated food or water. Moreover, zoonotic transmissions from various animal species (e.g. cattle, pigs) to humans are possible.

Since 2006 two vaccines against group A rotaviruses have been approved. To detect changes of the genotype distribution, which could be related to the introduction of vaccination, monitoring of the circulating group A rotavirus types in Germany has been carried out by the consulting laboratory since 2005 (G/P typing). Furthermore, the typing data can also provide information about the zoonotic potential and the possibly different pathogenesis of different rotavirus types. Information about the current rotavirus genotyping data (G/P typing) is made available on request.

For diagnosis and genotype differentiation of rotaviruses, molecular biological methods have been developed and established by the consulting laboratory. Using nucleic acid amplification, sequencing and phylogenetic analysis, genomic changes by mutation (antigenic drift) or by reassortment (antigenic shift) as well as epidemic relationships are analysed. For differentiation between wild-type and vaccination-type viruses specific PCR methods have been developed.

For special issues the group-specific detection of rotaviruses of group A, B and C is carried out using quantitative real-time PCRs.

Date: 08.02.2013