Rotavirus infection in adults

Lancet Infect Dis. 2004 Feb;4(2):91-9. doi: 10.1016/S1473-3099(04)00928-4.


Rotavirus has been recognised for 30 years as the most common cause of infectious gastroenteritis in infants and young children. By contrast, the role of rotavirus as a pathogen in adults has long been underappreciated. Spread by faecal-oral transmission, rotavirus infection in adults typically manifests with nausea, malaise, headache, abdominal cramping, diarrhoea, and fever. Infection can also be symptomless. Rotavirus infection in immunocompromised adults can have a variable course from symptomless to severe and sustained infection. Common epidemiological settings for rotavirus infection among adults include endemic disease, epidemic outbreak, travel-related infection, and disease resulting from child-to-adult transmission. Limited diagnostic and therapeutic alternatives are available for adults with suspected rotavirus infection. Because symptoms are generally self-limiting, supportive care is the rule. Clinicians caring for adults with gastroenteritis should consider rotavirus in the differential diagnosis. In this review we intend to familiarise clinicians who primarily provide care for adult patients with the salient features of rotavirus pathophysiology, clinical presentation, epidemiology, treatment, and prevention.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antigens, Viral / analysis
  • Colic / pathology
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Diarrhea / pathology
  • Disease Transmission, Infectious
  • Fever / pathology
  • Gastritis / diagnosis*
  • Gastritis / physiopathology
  • Gastritis / virology
  • Headache / pathology
  • Humans
  • Immunocompromised Host
  • Nausea / pathology
  • Risk Factors
  • Rotavirus Infections / diagnosis*
  • Rotavirus Infections / physiopathology
  • Rotavirus Infections / prevention & control
  • Rotavirus Infections / therapy
  • Rotavirus* / genetics
  • Rotavirus* / immunology
  • Rotavirus* / ultrastructure
  • Travel


  • Antigens, Viral