Human Norovirus (NoV) is recognized as a major etiological agent of sporadic acute gastroenteritis worldwide.
This study describes the clinical features associated with Human NoV occurrence in children and determines the prevalence and estimated viral burden of NoV in symptomatic and asymptomatic children in rural South Africa.
Between July 2014 and April 2015, outpatient children under 5 years of age from rural communities of Vhembe district, South Africa, were enrolled for the study. A total of 303 stool specimens were collected from those with diarrhea (n = 253) and without (n = 50) diarrhea. NoVs were identified using real-time one-step RT-PCR.
One hundred and four (41.1%) NoVs were detected (62[59.6%] GII, 16[15.4%] GI, and 26[25%] mixed GI/GII) in cases and 18 (36%) including 9(50%) GII, 2(11.1%) GI and 7(38.9%) mixed GI/GII in controls. NoV detection rates in symptomatic and asymptomatic children (OR = 1.24; 95% CI 0.66-2.33) were not significantly different. Comparison of the median CT values for NoV in symptomatic and asymptomatic children revealed significant statistical difference of estimated GII viral load from both groups, with a much higher viral burden in symptomatic children.
Though not proven predictive of diarrhea disease in this study, the high detection rate of NoV reflects the substantial exposure of children from rural communities to enteric pathogens possibly due to poor sanitation and hygiene practices. The results suggest that the difference between asymptomatic and symptomatic children with NoV may be at the level of the viral load of NoV genogroups involved.