Rotaviruses cause gastroenteritis in neonates of many animal species including cattle, swine, horses, dogs, cats, chickens and turkeys. Rotavirions are nonenveloped, are about 75 nm in diameter, have a double capsid, and contain 11 double-stranded RNA segments as their genome. Several antigenically distinct groups of rotaviruses have been identified and have been alphabetically designated as A through G. Group A rotaviruses were the first group of rotaviruses isolated and are the most commonly detected rotaviruses in diarrheic animals. Group A rotaviruses have two surface proteins, VP4 and VP7, both of which are important in serotype determination and in inducing neutralizing antibodies and protective immunity. Multiple serotypes of group A rotavirus based on glycoprotein VP7 (designated as G types) and based on VP4 (P types) have been identified. The immune response to rotaviruses is essentially serotype specific, however, cross-reactive or heterotypic epitopes have also been identified. Currently acceptable methods for immunogen quantitation include the induction of neutralizing antibody in host or laboratory animals. The in vivo efficacy of vaccines against rotavirus-associated gastroenteritis remains the standard method against which in vitro methods must be compared. Several animal models have been developed which could potentially be used in evaluating the efficacy of candidate vaccines. Monoclonal antibodies to rotavirus immunogens are also currently available and serve as valuable reagents for in vitro quantitation of rotaviral immunogens.
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