Rotaviruses are infectious agents, transmitted by the faecal–oral route. Distinguishing features include a genome consisting of 11 segments of double‐stranded ribonucleic acid (dsRNA), distinctive morphological appearance by electron microscopy and unique morphogenesis involving transient lipid‐enveloped particles. Primary rotavirus infections in the young of mammals and birds can cause severe diarrhoea after replication in the small intestine. Reinfections result in protective immune responses. Worldwide morbidity and mortality rates in children justify vaccination to protect against this disease. Two safe live oral rotavirus vaccines, based on either a single attenuated human rotavirus strain, or a pentavalent mixture of human–bovine rotavirus reassortants, are now licensed and in use in many countries. Both are immunogenic and highly efficacious in prevention of severe rotavirus diarrhoea in children in developed countries. Recent trials have demonstrated lower vaccine efficacy in children in Africa and Asia. WHO has recommended the universal use of both vaccines.

Key Concepts:

  • An estimated 4.6 million people, including 2.5 million children, die from diarrhoea every year particularly in developing countries.

  • Worldwide, rotavirus is the major cause of infectious diarrhoea, particularly among young children.

  • There have been major efforts to produce safe, effective and affordable rotavirus vaccines for worldwide use.

  • The recent licensing of two human rotavirus vaccines provides optimism for controlling rotavirus disease.

Keywords: RNA virus; gastroenteritis; immune response; vaccine

Figure 1.

(a) Electron micrograph of rotavirus particles. Original resolution of this image is ×22 000; it is reproduced here at ×35 200. (b) Diagram of the triple‐layered rotavirus virion, indicating the locations of structural proteins in the core, inner capsid and outer capsid. dsRNA, double‐stranded RNA.

Figure 2.

Rotavirus replication cycle. mRNA, messenger RNA; NSP, nonstructural protein; RER, rough endoplasmic reticulum; VP, viral protein.

Figure 3.

Global distribution of human Group A rotavirus G and P types. The figure is adapted from Santos and Hoshino , using typing results of 16 474 isolates from 124 studies published between 1989 and 2004. Others include G1, G2, G3 or G4P[6] and G1 or G3P[9].



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Further Reading

Bishop RF (1993) Development of candidate rotavirus vaccines. Vaccine 4: 247–254.

Danchin MH and Bines JE (2009) Defeating rotavirus? The global recommendation for rotavirus vaccination. New England Journal of Medicine 361: 1919–1921.

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Estes MK and Kapikian AZ (2007) Rotaviruses and their replication. In: Fields BN, Knipe DM and Howley P et al. (eds) Fields Virology, 5th edn, pp. 1917–1974. Philadelphia: Lippincott, Williams and Wilkins.

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Parashar UD, Hummelman EG, Bresee JS et al. (2003) Global illness and deaths caused by rotavirus disease in children. Emerging Infectious Diseases 9: 565–572.

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How to Cite close
Palombo, Enzo A, and Bishop, Ruth F(May 2011) Rotaviruses. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. [doi: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0001087.pub3]