The role of human caliciviruses in epidemic gastroenteritis
Members of the Caliciviridae family of small, positive-sense RNA viruses exhibit a broad host range. The Norwalk and Norwalk-like caliciviruses in this family are major etiologic agents of epidemic gastroenteritis in humans. This illness characteristically lasts 24–48 h and often occurs in group settings such as families, schools, institutions, or communities. The spread of the human caliciviruses is considered to be predominantly by person-to-person contact via the fecal-oral-route. However, the ingestion of calicivirus-contaminated food or water can result in large-scale common-source outbreaks. Many basic features concerning the biology and replication of the human caliciviruses are not known because they have not yet been grown in cell culture and the virus does not appear to replicate in animal models other than the chimpanzee. Sequence analysis of RT-PCR-generated DNA fragments derived from serotypically distinct reference strains (such as the Norwalk, Hawaii, and Snow Mountain viruses) and other circulating strains associated with gastroenteritis has provided evidence for marked genetic diversity among these viruses. Moreover, analysis of the antigenic relationships among these viruses using paired sera from individuals infected with well-characterized reference strains or from animals immunized with recombinant “virus-like particles” (VLPs) suggests that several serotypes of these viruses are circulating worldwide. The availability of molecular techniques for the detection of these fastidious viruses has enabled epidemiologic studies that have strengthened the association of human caliciviruses with acute gastroenteritis and has demonstrated a potential role for antigenic diversity in the natural history of these pathogens.
KeywordsRabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus Norwalk Virus Feline Calicivirus Immune Electron Microscopy Human Caliciviruses
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