Analysis of archival stool collections provides an invaluable source of virus strains and genetic material that may be exploited for molecular, epidemiological, and biological studies. The aim of this study was the molecular characterization of unusual human rotavirus (HRV) strains displaying atypical combinations of electropherotype (e-type) and VP4 and/or VP7 genotypes. Analysis of a panel of archival stools collected in northern Italy revealed continual circulation of PG1 HRVs during 1987–1990 and the onset of PþPG1 strains after 1989. Interestingly, nine G1 strains, associated with either P, PþP, PþP, or untypeable VP4 genes, and two PG1þG2 strains, displayed short RNA e-type. The genetic constellation of the unusual strains was investigated by analysis of the VP4, VP6, VP7, and NSP4 genes. All the G1 strains with short e-type were subgroup (SG)II or SGIþSGII, and possessed a NSP4 of genogroup B or AþB. Conversely, the PG1þG2 strains were SGI and possessed a genogroup A NSP4. Sequence analysis of the VP7 and VP4 genes revealed that the unusual PG1 and PG1þG2 viruses emerged by reassortment of strains circulating locally, rather than by introduction of new strains.
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