Zoom in on microorganisms

Germs that infect humans



© Robert Alain, SME, INRS-Institut Armand-Frappier

Microorganism: group A rotavirus, a member of the Reoviridae family

Disease: gastroenteritis

Occurrence of the disease

Current situation: diarrheal diseases, which include diarrhea caused by the rotaviruses, are the most important cause of death among young children. Every year, especially in developing countries, these diseases kill between five and ten million children around the world. In the United States, the rotaviruses are responsible for 35% of cases of gastroenteritis, and for 75 to 150 deaths each year.

Mechanism of action of the microorganism: the virus attacks the cells of the intestine, thereby preventing them from carrying out their function, that is, absorbing nutrients.

Symptoms of the disease: vomiting, fever, headache, and severe diarrhea causing dehydration which, in young children, necessitates hospitalization.

Incubation period: 24 to 48 hours

Contagious period: the contagious period begins during the symptomatic phase and continues until about the eighth day following infection.

Hosts: humans

Transmission: fecal and oral routes

Discoverer of the microorganism:

Treatment: treatment consists of giving large quantities of fluids to the patient to prevent dehydration. Viral gastroenteritis normally disappears of its own accord.

Geographical distribution of the microorganism: worldwide

Prevention: vaccine

Vaccine: in 1998, a live vaccine (RRV-TV) against the rotavirus was approved for use in the United States. This vaccine can be given orally. RRV-TV was withdrawn from the market in 1999 because it caused intussuceptions (penetration of one part of an organ into an immediately adjoining part, like a glove turned inside out) among newborns. The vaccine caused intestinal invagination, which in turn provoked obstruction of the intestines.