Epidemiological, Molecular, and Clinical Features of Norovirus Infections among Pediatric Patients in Qatar
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Abstract: Background: Norovirus (NoV) is recognized as the second most important etiological agent leading to acute gastroenteritis globally. In order to determine the burden and characteristics of NoV infections in children in Qatar, profiling of circulating genotypes and their correlation with demographics and clinical manifestations were evaluated. Methods: A total of 177 NoV-positive fecal samples were collected from children suffering from acute gastroenteritis (AGE) during two-year period between June 2016 and June 2018. The age of the subjects ranged between 3 months and 12 years (median of 15 months). Genotyping was performed by amplifying and sequencing parts of viral VP1 and RNA-dependent RNA polymerase (RdRp) regions. Phylogenetic analysis and evolutionary relationships were performed using MEGA7.0. Fisher’s exact test was used to run statistical analysis for the clinical and demographical characteristics of circulating strains. Results: Overall, NoV infections were relatively higher in males than females with a ratio of 1.3:1 (p = 0.0073). Most of the NoV infections were reported in children between 1 and 3 years old (49.7%), followed by those <1 and >3 years of age (41.2% and 9.1%, respectively). NoV infections occurred throughout the year, with a noticeable increase in summer (36.6%) and drop in winter (25.4%). Nearly all (98.8%) NoV-infected children were positive for genogroup II (GII) compared to only two samples (1.2%) being positive for genogroup I (GI): GI.3 and GI.4. NoV genotype GII.4 (62.2%), GII.2 (15.8%), and GII.3 (13.5%) were predominant in our study. The detected strains shared >98% sequence homology with emerging recombinant strain of GII.P16-GII.4/RUS/Novosibirsk/2017 (MG892929), GII.P16-GII.4 Sydney/2012 (KY887601), GII.4 Sydney/2012, recombinant GII.P4 New Orleans /2009/GII.4 Sydney 2012 (MG585810.1), and the emerging strain GII.P16-GII.2 CHN/2017 (MH321823). Severe clinical illness (vesikari score >10) was reported in children infected with genotypes sharing homology with the above emerging strains. While GII.4 was reported in all age groups, NoV GII.3 infections were higher in children <1 year of age. Both genogroups (GII.4 and GII.3) in addition to GII.2 reported higher incidence in Qatari subjects compared to other nationalities (p = 0.034). Conclusion: This is the first report about NoV molecular epidemiology in Qatar. The most detected NoV strain was genogroup GII, which is the dominant genotype in the Middle East region. Further, we report GII.4, GII.2, and GII.3 as the most predominant NoV genotypes in our study. Moreover, disease severity scores were higher among children genotyped with genogroup GI (GI.4) and genogroup GII (GII.4, GII.2, GII.3, GII.6, and GII.7).
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