EPIDEMIOLOGY OF ROTAVIRUS AND ASTROVIRUS INFECTIONS IN CHILDREN IN NORTHWESTERN NIGERIA
AbstractBackground: Recent estimates attribute 527 000 deaths in children less than five years of age to rotavirus diarrhea annually, with 145 000 occurring in sub-Saharan Africa. Human astroviruses have
been identified as one of the most frequent causes of infantile diarrhea, second in incidence only to rotavirus. This study was conducted to determine the prevalence of rotavirus and astrovirus and also to
establish the circulating strains of rotavirus in a community in Nigeria where most diarrheic patients do not visit clinics or health care centers.
Methods: A total of 154 stool samples (134 diarrheic and 20 non-diarrheic) were collected from infants and young children less than 5 years of age from January-March 2002. Samples were obtained by house-to-house visit in randomly selected districts in Zaria, Northwestern Nigeria. The samples were screened for rotavirus and astrovirus antigens using commercially available Enzyme Linked Immunosorbent Assay (ELISA) kits. All positive group A rotavirus samples were further subjected to VP6
sub-group ELISA, Polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis (PAGE) to determine their RNA electropherotypes and Reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) to determine their VP7 and VP4 genotypes.
Results: Rotavirus and astrovirus antigens were detected in 9% (12) and 5% (7) of the 134 diarrheic stool samples respectively. No viral antigen was detected in the non-diarrheic stools. Rotavirus
infection was more common in younger children than astrovirus infection. VP6 sub-group II specificity (58.3%), long RNA electropherotypes (41.6%), VP7 genotype G1 (33.3%) and VP4 genotype P  (33.3%)
were the most common strains in circulation at that time in the community. Of significance is the fact that a large proportion of the rotavirus strains in circulation could not be assigned either a VP6 subgroup
or RNA electrophoretic pattern probably as a result of low viral load.
Conclusion: In this community-based study, rotavirus and astrovirus were significantly associated with diarrhea. However, the prevalence of rotavirus infection among children appears to be low while that of astrovirus falls in the range seen in hospital-based studies around the continent.