OBJECTIVE: Rotavirus is the leading cause of severe diarrhea among children worldwide, killing approximately 600,000 children annually, including 64,800 in the Eastern Mediterranean Region. Safe, effective rotavirus vaccines will be available soon, and accurate disease burden data will be needed to assess the burden of rotavirus and the value of new vaccines and monitor vaccine program impact.
METHODS: To identify epidemiologic studies in which rotavirus diagnostics were applied to children with acute gastroenteritis, we performed a systematic literature review. We selected studies that met 4 criteria and extracted rotavirus data on prevalence estimates, strain identification, age distribution of patients, and seasonal trends.
RESULTS: Of the 63 published studies with some rotavirus detection data, 29 met inclusion criteria. Among patients with diarrhea, rotavirus was detected in 40% of inpatients and 23% of outpatients. By 3 years of age, 75% of children experienced a documented rotavirus infection. Circulation of rotavirus occurred year-round, and no clear relationship between the timing of the rotavirus peak with either season or latitude was observed. Comparison of country-specific rotavirus detection rates indicated that the proportion of hospitalizations for rotavirus infection increased with income.
CONCLUSION: This systematic review of studies of rotavirus diarrhea among children in the countries of the Eastern Mediterranean Region documents that rotavirus is one of the most significant causes of childhood diarrhea in the region. The findings of this review will be used to establish sentinel hospital surveillance in these countries, estimate disease burden, and characterize its epidemiology using common protocols and diagnostics.
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