Date: 18 Aug 2006

Viral gastroenteritis in children hospitalised in Sicily, Italy

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Abstract

The aim of the present study was to describe the epidemiologic and clinical characteristics of acute viral gastroenteritis in hospitalised Italian children. A total of 215 stool specimens were collected from January to December 2003 from patients hospitalised in Palermo for acute diarrhoea. Samples were tested for group A rotavirus, astrovirus, adenovirus, norovirus, enteropathogenic bacteria, and parasites. Rotaviruses, mostly belonging to types G1–G4, were detected in 25.1% of samples, astrovirus in 7%, adenovirus in 6%, norovirus in 18.6%, and bacterial agents in 17.2%. No parasitic infections were diagnosed. Mixed infections represented 9.8% of all cases. The mean and median ages of children with rotavirus gastroenteritis were lower than those of children with other viruses (p=0.029), with the highest median ages being found in astrovirus-infected patients. Vomiting and dehydration were more frequent among patients with viral infection (p<0.01), and the severity score was significantly higher for children infected with astrovirus or group A rotavirus (p=0.008). Rotavirus was the leading cause of prolonged hospitalisation (p=0.005). In conclusion, viruses were confirmed in Italy as the most common cause of severe enteric illness in childhood, with rotavirus types G1–G4, which correspond to those included in the rotavirus vaccines being developed, playing the main role. Routine testing should be introduced for noroviruses, since they seem to represent an important cause of sporadic paediatric gastroenteritis.