An epidemiological survey investigating rotavirus infections in children was undertaken in the Eastern Center of Tunisia between January 1995 and December 2004. A total of 982 faecal specimens collected from children less than 5 years in age were screened by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) or latex agglutination assay for the presence of group A rotavirus antigen. Rotavirus-positive samples were used for G and P typing by multiplex semi-nested reverse transcription-PCR. Rotaviruses were detected in 22% (n = 220) of stools. Of these, 164 were typed for VP7: G genotypes found were G1 (59%), G2 (2%), G3 (9%), G4 (10%), G8 (1%), and G9 (1%). Sixteen specimens (9%) showed mixed G profiles. A total of 119 specimens were typed for VP4. P genotypes detected were P (32%), P (15%), and P (13%). Mixed P profiles were also detected (6%). Although the distribution of the detected genotypes appeared to change annually, G1P rotavirus strains always predominated during the 10-year period of study. This is the first report of rotaviruses in Tunisia with unconventional VP7 serotypes such as G8 and G9, highlighting the need for continual surveillance of emerging strains in Northern Africa. Indeed, the new commercial vaccines only contain the VP7 genes that dictate G1 or G1 to G4 specificities. These vaccines may protect less well against unusual strains circulating in countries planning to implement a rotavirus vaccine strategy.
- VP4 genotype
- VP7 genotype