Background. A retrospective study of the clinical, epidemiologic, and virologic features of norovirus gastroenteritis in 12 adult allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplant (HSCT) recipients. Methods. Norovirus infection was diagnosed by reverse-transcriptase polymerase chain reaction. Strains were genotyped by nucleic acid sequence of the most highly conserved region of the norovirus gene encoding the capsid S (shell) domain. Results. Ten of 12 patients presented with vomiting of short duration, but diarrhea was present in all. The median time from onset to norovirus diagnosis was 1 month (range, 0.25-6.0 months). Eleven patients were receiving immunosuppression when norovirus infection was diagnosed: 8 for graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) in an organ other than gut, 1 for previous gut GVHD, and 2 for presumed gut GVHD that proved to be norovirus gastroenteritis. Six patients required enteral or parenteral nutrition for severe weight loss. In 10 patients, diarrhea lasted a median of 3 months (range, 0.5-14 months) and virus was shed at a high level throughout. The remaining 2 patients died after 4 months of diarrhea (one died of unrelated complications, and the other died of malnutrition). The noroviruses found were GII (untyped), GII-3, GII-4, and GII-7 in 1, 1, 9, and 1 patients, respectively. Eleven of the 12 patients had acquired their infection in the community. Phylogenetic analysis of the GII-4 strains demonstrated that all differed. Conclusions. Noroviruses are a hitherto unsuspected cause of prolonged morbidity and mortality in adults after allogeneic HSCT. The use of reverse-transcriptase polymerase chain reaction to detect high viral load levels in feces distinguishes norovirus gastroenteritis from gut GVHD.
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Financial support. K.N.W. acknowledges funding from the University College London Hospitals/University College London Comprehensive Biomedical Research Centre. Potential conflicts of interest. All authors: no conflicts.