Background. Nigeria has recently been ranked third among the 10 countries with the greatest number of rotavirus disease-associated deaths per year. Estimates attribute up to 33,000 deaths annually to rotavirus disease in Nigerian children <5 years old. Although the introduction of the new oral, live attenuated rotavirus vaccines may not occur for another 4-6 years in developing countries, background data on burden of disease, cost of rotavirus disease, and characterization of circulating strains is required to hasten this introduction to children who would clearly benefit from the intervention. Methods. Between July 2002 and July 2004, fecal specimens were collected from 869 infants and young children <5 years of age presenting with diarrhea in Kaduna, Kebbi, Sokoto, and Zamfara states in northwestern Nigeria. In addition, 194 control specimens were also collected from children matched for age. Specimens were screened for the presence of rotavirus antigens. Rotavirus-positive specimens were further analyzed to determine electropherotype, subgroup specificity, and G and P genotypes. Results. Rotavirus was detected in 18% of children with diarrhea and 7.2% of the age-matched case control subjects. The highest rotavirus burden was detected in children aged <6 months. The majority of the rotaviruspositive specimens revealed viruses of long electropherotypes, subgroup II specificity, and G1P genotypes. Furthermore, more than a quarter of specimens (37%) displayed mixed G and P genotypes, and almost a third could not be genotyped. Conclusions. The high numbers of mixed rotavirus infections highlight the multitude of enteric pathogens to which children in African countries are exposed. Data on circulating rotavirus strains serve to inform African government officials to the serious health threat posed by rotavirus in their respective countries and to document the diversity of strains before vaccine introduction.