Genetic Diversity Among Genogroup II Noroviruses and Progressive Emergence of GII.17 in Wastewaters in Italy (2011-2016) Revealed by Next-Generation and Sanger Sequencing

E Suffredini, M Iaconelli, M Equestre, B Valdazo-González, A R Ciccaglione, C Marcantonio, S Della Libera, F Bignami, G La Rosa

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Noroviruses (NoV) are a major cause of gastroenteritis worldwide. Recently, a novel variant of NoV GII.17 (GII.P17_GII.17 NoV), termed Kawasaki 2014, has been increasingly reported in NoV outbreaks in Asia, and has also been described in Europe and North America. In this study, sewage samples were investigated to study the occurrence and genetic diversity of NoV genogroup II (GII) along a 6-year period. Moreover, the spread of GII.17 strains (first appearance and occurrence along time) was specifically assessed. A total of 122 sewage samples collected from 2011 to 2016 from four wastewater treatment plants in Rome (Italy) were initially tested using real-time RT-(q)PCR for GII NoV. Positive samples were subsequently subjected to genotypic characterization by RT-nested PCRs using broad-range primes targeting the region C of the capsid gene of GII NoV, and specific primers targeting the same region of GII.17 NoV. In total, eight different genotypes were detected with the broad-range assay: GII.1 (n = 6), GII.2 (n = 8), GII.3 (n = 3), GII.4 (n = 13), GII.6 (n = 3), GII.7 (n = 2), GII.13 (n = 2), and GII.17 (n = 3), with the latter two genotypes detected only in 2016. Specific amplification of GII.17 NoV was successful in 14 out of 110 positive samples, spanned over the years 2013-2016. The amplicons of the broad-range PCR, pooled per year, were further analyzed by next-generation sequencing (NGS) for a deeper analysis of the genotypes circulating in the study period. NGS confirmed the circulation of GII.17 NoV since 2013 and detected, beyond the eight genotypes identified by Sanger sequencing, three additional genotypes regarded as globally uncommon: GII.5, GII.16, and GII.21. This study provides evidence that GII.17 NoV Kawasaki has been circulating in the Italian population before its appearance and identification in clinical cases, and has become a major genotype in 2016. Our results confirm the usefulness of wastewater surveillance coupled with NGS to study the molecular epidemiology of NoV and to monitor the emergence of NoV strains.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)141-150
Number of pages10
JournalFood and Environmental Virology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2018


  • Caliciviridae Infections/epidemiology
  • Gastroenteritis/epidemiology
  • Genetic Variation
  • Genotype
  • High-Throughput Nucleotide Sequencing
  • Humans
  • Molecular Epidemiology
  • Norovirus/genetics
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA
  • Sewage/virology
  • Waste Water/virology


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