A reverse transcription (RT) single-round multiplex polymerase chain reaction (smPCR) assay was developed to detect simultaneously Norovirus genogroup I and II, Sapovirus and astrovirus. A total of 377 diarrhea stool samples (screened for rotavirus- and adenorivus-negative) from four regions in Japan during July 2000 to June 2001 were examined by RT-smPCR. The positive rate was 16.4% (62 out of 377 stool samples). Norovirus, Sapovirus and astrovirus were detected in 42, 16, 4 of 60 positive samples, respectively. Coinfection was not found in these samples. Infections occurred mainly in November, December and January. The key elements of the RT-smPCR are (i) the cDNA synthesis with the Superscript RTII and random primer at 42 degrees C for 1 h, at 99 degrees C for 5 min, and (ii) single-round multiplex PCR by using Taq polymerase mixed together with a mixture of four different primer pairs (G1-SKF/G1-SKR for Norovirus genogroup I, COG2F/G2-SKR for Norovirus genogroup II, SLV5317/SLV5749 for Sapovirus, PreCAP1/82b for astrovirus). All of the four primer pairs amplify the capsid region of target viral genome, produce four size-specific amplicons of 330, 387, 434, 719 bp for Norovirus genogroup I and II, Sapovirus and astrovirus, respectively. This assay provides a more rapid and efficient way to detect these viruses from fecal samples in a single test, and also offers the potential for their molecular detection in food and environmental samples.