Background: The IFI27 interferon gene expression has been found to be largely increased in rotavirus (RV)-infected patients. IFI27 gene encodes for a protein of unknown function, very recently linked to epidermal proliferation and related to the epidermal growth factor (EGF) protein. The EGF is a low-molecular-weight polypeptide that is mainly produced by submandibular and parotid glands, and it plays an important physiological role in the maintenance of oro-esophageal and gastric tissue integrity. Our aim was to determine salivary EGF levels in RV-infected patients in order to establish its potential relationship with IFI27 increased expression and EGF-mediated mucosal protection in RV infection.
Methods: We conducted a prospective comparative study using saliva samples from 27 infants infected with RV (sampled at recruitment during hospital admission and at convalescence, i.e. at least 3 months after recovery) and from 36 healthy control children.
Results: Median (SD) EGF salivary concentration was 777 (529) pg/ml in RV-infected group at acute phase and 356 (242) pg/m at convalescence, while it was 337 (119) pg/ml in the healthy control group. A significant association was found between EGF levels and hospitalization length of stay (P-value = 0.022; r2 = -0.63).
Conclusions: The salivary levels of EGF are significantly increased during the acute phase of natural RV infection, and relate to length of hospitalization. Further assessment of this non-invasive biomarker in RV disease is warranted.
Keywords: Biomarkers; EGF; IFI27; Rotavirus infection.