Molecular Detection and Genotyping of Noroviruses
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Noroviruses (NoVs) are a major cause of gastroenteritis worldwide in humans and animals and are known as very infectious viral agents. They are spread through feces and vomit via several transmission routes involving person-to-person contact, food, and water. Investigation of these transmission routes requires sensitive methods for detection of NoVs. As NoVs cannot be cultivated to date, detection of these viruses relies on the use of molecular methods such as (real-time) reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR). Regardless of the matrix, detection of NoVs generally requires three subsequent steps: a virus extraction step, RNA purification, and molecular detection of the purified RNA, occasionally followed by molecular genotyping. The current review mainly focused on the molecular detection and genotyping of NoVs. The most conserved region in the genome of human infective NoVs is the ORF1/ORF2 junction and has been used as a preferred target region for molecular detection of NoVs by methods such as (real-time) RT-PCR, NASBA, and LAMP. In case of animal NoVs, broad range molecular assays have most frequently been applied for molecular detection. Regarding genotyping of NoVs, five regions situated in the polymerase and capsid genes have been used for conventional RT-PCR amplification and sequencing. As the expected levels of NoVs on food and in water are very low and inhibition of molecular methods can occur in these matrices, quality control including adequate positive and negative controls is an essential part of NoV detection. Although the development of molecular methods for NoV detection has certainly aided in the understanding of NoV transmission, it has also led to new problems such as the question whether low levels of human NoV detected on fresh produce and shellfish could pose a threat to public health.