Implementing a multiplex-PCR test for the diagnosis of acute gastroenteritis in hospitalized children: Are all enteric viruses the same?

Dana Danino, Guy Hazan, Rofaida Mahajna, Firas Khalde, Lama Farraj, Yonat Shemer Avni, David Greenberg, Eli Hershkovitz, Yaniv Faingelernt, Noga Givon-Lavi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Background: Multiplex-PCR is a valuable tool for diagnosing viral acute gastroenteritis (AGE), enabling the detection of multiple pathogens. However, distinguishing between active disease and shedding poses challenges. This study aimed to evaluate viral AGE epidemiology and compare clinical characteristics among the five most common viruses. Methods: Rotavirus vaccine was introduced in 2010, with 70% coverage achieved in southern Israel in two years. All rectal swabs for multiplex-PCR targeting rotavirus, norovirus, adenovirus, astrovirus and sapovirus from hospitalized diarrheic children <5 years were included, from December 2017 through March 2022. Detection of the same virus within two months was considered a single episode. Clinical analysis included episodes with single-virus detection and negative bacterial PCR. Results: Among 5,879 rectal swabs, 2,662 (45.3%) tested positive for at least one virus, with 245 (9.2%) showing multiple virus detection. Rotavirus was the most prevalent. While rotavirus exhibited typical winter-spring seasonality in 2018–19, an unusual off-season surge was observed during the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic. Among negative bacterial PCR episodes, 34.6% had mucus stool, 5.9% had bloody stool, and 29.3% received antibiotics. Astrovirus or sapovirus infections were associated with higher rates of hospital-acquired AGE and immunodeficiency (P<0.05), whereas rotavirus infections had higher rates of dehydration severity and acute kidney injury (P<0.05). Discussion: Enteric viruses were detected in 45.3% of rectal swabs from hospitalized children with diarrhea. Despite vaccination efforts, rotavirus remained prevalent and caused more severe disease. Continuous surveillance using multiplex-PCR is crucial for accurate management and future prevention strategies for viral AGE.

Original languageEnglish
Article number105577
JournalJournal of Clinical Virology
StatePublished - 1 Oct 2023


  • Acute gastroenteritis
  • Children
  • Viral
  • multiplex-PCR

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Infectious Diseases
  • Virology


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