Noroviruses are a major cause of acute gastroenteritis worldwide and are a genetically diverse group of viruses. Since 2002, an increasing number of norovirus outbreaks have been reported globally, but it is not clear whether this increase has been caused by a higher awareness or reflects the emergence of new genogroup II genotype 4 (GII.4) variants. The hypothesis that norovirus prevalence has increased post-2002 and is related to the emergence of GII.4 is tested in this study. Sera collected from children aged <5 years of three Dutch cross-sectional population based cohorts in 1963, 1983 and 2006/2007 (n=143, n=130 and n=376, respectively) were tested for specific serum IgG by protein array using antigens to GII.4 and a range of other antigens representing norovirus GI, GII and GIV genotypes. The protein array was validated by paired sera of norovirus infected patients and supernatants of B-cell cultures with single epitope specificity. Evidence for norovirus infection was found to be common among Dutch children in each cohort, but the prevalence towards different genotypes changed over time. At the genogroup level, GI seroprevalence decreased significantly between 1963 and 2006/2007, while a significant increase of GII and, in particular, specific antibodies of the genotype GII.4 was detected in the 2006/2007 cohort. There were no children with only GII.4 antibodies in the 1963 cohort. This study shows that the high GII.4 norovirus incidence in very young children is a recent phenomenon. These findings are of importance for vaccine development and trials that are currently focusing mostly on GII.4 viruses.

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Journal of General Virology
Department of Virology

van Beek, J., de Graaf, M., Xia, M. (Ming), Jiang, X. (Xi), Vinjé, J., Beersma, T., … Koopmans, M., D.V.M. (2016). Comparison of norovirus genogroup I, II and IV seroprevalence among children in the Netherlands, 1963, 1983 and 2006. Journal of General Virology, 97(9), 2255–2264. doi:10.1099/jgv.0.000533