A 6-year study of stool samples from 4604 children hospitalized for acute gastroenteritis was conducted to investigate the role of enteric viruses as a cause of gastroenteritis in north-west Greece. Rotaviruses, noroviruses, adenoviruses and astroviruses were detected in 21.35%, 4%, 3.5% and 2.35%, respectively, by enzyme immunoassays and molecular techniques. Molecular techniques enhanced overall diagnostic efficacy by 2.5%, and by c. 10% each for rotavirus and adenovirus. Rotavirus was the leading cause of viral gastroenteritis, usually associated with severe illness. Mixed infections were found in 4.4% of positive specimens, and rotavirus plus astrovirus represented the most frequent co-infection (55.5%). This first study on the epidemiology of viral gastroenteritis in Greece shows that recent advances in the diagnosis of viral enteropathogens may have only marginal effects on overall diagnostic efficacy, and thus the impact of viral agents causing sporadic gastroenteritis in public health cannot be fully evaluated.
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