Clinlab Navigator

Rotavirus Antigen

Before the introduction of rotavirus vaccine in the United States in 2006, rotavirus infection was the leading cause of severe gastroenteritis in children. Following introduction of the vaccine, the prevalence of laboratory confirmed cases of rotavirus has declined by 85%. Rotavirus infections usually peak during winter months. In the postvaccine era, rotavirus season begins later in the year and lasts for an average of 9 weeks compared to an average of 26 weeks in the prevaccine era.

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 enzyme 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. Specimens collected 8 days or more after the onset of symptoms may contain too few viral particles to detect the rotavirus antigen. 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.


Hallowell BD, Parashar UD, Curns A, DeGroote NP, Tate JE. Trends in the Laboratory Detection of Rotavirus Before and After Implementation of Routine Rotavirus Vaccination — United States, 2000–2018. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2019;68:539–543. DOI:


AddThis Social Bookmark Button