Viruses causing childhood diarrhoea in the developing world

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Purpose of review

Acute gastroenteritis is one of the leading causes of morbidity and mortality in children in the developing world. With improvements in hygiene and sanitation, the burden of disease due to bacterial and parasitic infections has decreased and an increasing proportion of diarrhoea hospitalizations are attributed to viruses. This review focuses on enteric viruses and their role in childhood diarrhoea in the developing world.

Recent findings

With the use of sensitive molecular techniques, it is evident that a significant proportion of childhood diarrhoea is attributable to enteric viruses, with at least one viral agent in nearly 43% of samples from childhood diarrhoea in developing countries. Rotaviruses remain the most common pathogens in children, followed by noroviruses in almost all countries. There is increasing evidence that both rotaviruses and caliciviruses spread beyond the gut in a large proportion of infections.


The review highlights the importance of viral agents of gastroenteritis in developing countries. Wider use of molecular techniques is resulting in rapid identification of new or emerging strains and in the detection of extra-intestinal spread. There is a need to better understand susceptibility and immune response to these agents to be able to design suitable interventions.

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