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Rotavirus, the commonest cause of severe dehydrating gastroenteritis world-wide, was discovered less than 50 years ago. It causes about 450 000 deaths per year in children <5 years of age and hospitalises millions more. Rotavirus vaccines have been shown to have a major impact on hospital admissions due to rotavirus gastroenteritis and all-cause gastroenteritis and reduce mortality in developing countries. In Australia, there has been a 71% decrease in rotavirus hospitalisations in children 0–5 years of age. From the discovery of rotavirus as the major causative agent for severe gastroenteritis, through vaccine development and vaccine post-marketing surveillance activities, Australian scientists and clinicians have played a significant role in the global effort to reduce the burden of rotavirus infection.