Background: Group A rotavirus (RVA) vaccines have been introduced in Japan since 2011. To investigate the molecular epidemiological traits of RVA during the transitional period of rotavirus vaccine implementation in Japan, this study was undertaken by following up three-decade long surveillance conducted in the same regions.
Methods: RVA were screened and genotyped by RT-PCR from diarrheal samples collected from non-hospitalized patients in six localities (Hokkaido, Tokyo, Shizuoka, Osaka, Kyoto, and Saga) during 2011 - 2014. Selected samples were sequenced to elucidate the evolutionary trend.
Results: Among 1858 specimens, the detection rate of RVA declined to 4.0% in 2013 - 2014 from 17.9% in 2011 - 2012 and 22.1% in 2012 - 2013. G1P was the most predominant genotype in the first two years accounting for more than half, and G9P showed the highest detection rate as 35.0% in the last year. Interestingly, the proportional rate of G2 strains in the studied period increased from 0% to 25%. VP6 genotyping revealed that DS-1 like reassortant G1P strains were detected all over Japan and their prevalence fluctuated greatly from 35.0% to 89.5%. Sequence analysis of VP6 showed that strains in the current strains were closely related but distinct from the original reference strains, namely Wa and DS-1.
Conclusions: The detection rates of RVA, their GP combinations, prevalence of reassortant strains varied greatly after the introduction of rotavirus vaccines in Japan. Continuous monitoring is warranted to refine future vaccine strategy.