Rotavirus antigenemia is a common phenomenon in children with rotavirus diarrhea, but information is scarce on aspects of this phenomenon, such as genotype specificity, presence of intact viruses and correlation between genomic RNA and antigen concentration. Such information may help in understanding rotavirus pathogenesis and eventually be useful for diagnosis, treatment and prevention.
Serum samples were collected from children who presented at hospitals with diarrhea. Antigenemia was present in 162/250 (64.8%) samples from children with rotavirus diarrhea. No specific rotavirus genotype was found to be associated with antigenemia. Rotavirus particles could not be found by electron microscopy in concentrated serum from children with high levels of antigenemia. In passaged rotavirus suspension a significant correlation (r = 0.9559; P = 0.0029) was found between antigen level and viral copy number, but no significant correlation (r = 0.001480; P = 0.9919) was found between antigenemia level and viral copy number in serum. When intact rotavirus was treated with benzonase endonuclease, genomic double-stranded (ds) RNA was not degraded, but when sera of patients with antigenemia were treated with benzonase endonuclease, genomic dsRNA was degraded, indicating genomic dsRNA was free in sera and not inside virus capsid protein.
Antigenemia is present in a significant number of patients with rotavirus diarrhea. Rotavirus viremia was absent in the children with rotavirus diarrhea who participated in our study, and was not indicated by the presence of antigenemia. The significance of circulating rotavirus antigen and genomic dsRNA in serum of patients with diarrhea deserves further study.