A review of viral gastroenteritis

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Abstract

Purpose of review

Since Kapakian first identified a virus in the stool of a patient with diarrhoea in 1972, many viruses have been described that cause diarrhoea directly or indirectly. It is now appreciated that viruses are the most common cause of diarrhoeal illness worldwide. Although bacteria and other pathogens cause significant numbers of gastroenteritis, it is the viruses that are dealt with in this review. The viruses responsible will be discussed individually.

Recent findings

Rotavirus remains the leading cause of diarrhoeal disease overall, with the newly designated calicivirus family causing the most outbreaks in the industrialized nations. As diagnostic techniques improve, however, the importance of astrovirus and other previously under-reported pathogens is becoming more apparent and the number of viruses associated with gastroenteritis continues to increase. The emergence of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus, arguably the most important emerging infection of recent years and a cause of significant gastrointestinal disease, is also discussed.

Summary

No effective treatments have been developed for viral gastroenteritis. Current efforts are targeted at the development of suitable vaccines and the implementation of infection control measures.

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