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Rotavirus Antigen

Rotavirus is the major etiologic agent of infantile gastroenteritis. Before the introduction of rotavirus vaccine in the United States in 2006, rotavirus infection caused significant morbidity among U.S. children, with an estimated 55,000 to 70,000 hospitalizations and 410,000 clinic visits annually. Rotavirus gastroenteritis typically exhibited both a seasonal and geographic pattern. It typically began in the western United States during December or January and spread eastward, ending in the Northeast during April to May.

Following introduction of the vaccine, the incidence of laboratory confirmed cases of rotavirus has declined 58 to 90%. The disease has exhibited a later onset and shorter duration of seasonal spread (MMWR, April 10, 2015 / 64(13);337-342).

Rotavirus disease is characterized by diarrhea of acute onset, which persists four to eight days.  Rotavirus infections, associated with gastroenteritis, have also been reported in older children and adults.  Adult infections are usually mild.  Rotavirus infections can be a more serious problem in elderly patients living in nursing homes, or other confined quarters.   Deaths have occurred due to dehydration and electrolyte imbalances.

Rotavirus does not grow readily in tissue culture, but Rotavirus antigen can usually be detected in feces by immunoassay. Infected children excrete copious amounts of virus for three to five days after the onset of symptoms, making antigen testing reliable. The virus is eliminated from the infected individual by the eighth day.  A prolonged carrier state occurs in some patients.   

Results are reported as positive or negative.  Reference value is negative. 

Specimen requirement is a one gram (pea-sized) piece of stool in viral transport media. Stool specimens are preferred over rectal swabs.


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