Background: Rotavirus is a major cause of severe diarrhea worldwide. It causes 453,000 deaths in children annually. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, sentinel site surveillance of rotavirus gastroenteritis started in 2009 and aimed to document burden of rotavirus diarrhea and identify circulating rotavirus genotypes.
Methods: Between August 2009 to June 2012, stool samples were collected in Kinshasa and Lubumbashi, from children <5 years of age who met the WHO case definition for rotavirus gastroenteritis. Rotavirus antigen detection was performed using an enzyme immunoassay technique and rotavirus strains were characterized using a multiplex reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction assay.
Results: During the study period, 1614 stool samples were screened for rotavirus by enzyme immunoassay and 990 (61%) were positive. Of these, the genotype was determined in 330 (33%) samples. The most common genotypes found in the samples analyzed were G1P in 2009 (28%) and 2012 (33%), G2P (33%) in 2010 and G2P (28%) in 2011. Uncommon strains like G8P (5%), G6P (5%), G12P (3%), G12P (3%) and G8P (2%) were also detected.
Conclusions: In Democratic Republic of the Congo, 61% of the diarrhea in children in <5 years of age was caused by rotavirus infection and a variety of rotavirus genotypes were detected. Implementation of rotavirus genotyping at the national level has improved the timely identification of rotavirus strains. These results will help decision makers in Democratic Republic of the Congo plan the implementation of a rotavirus vaccination program.