Molecular Epidemiology of Viral Gastroenteritis in Hajj pilgrimage

  • Eriko Padron Regalado

Student thesis: Master's Thesis


Hajj is the annual gathering of Islam practitioners in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. During the event, gastrointestinal infections are usually experienced and outbreaks have always been a concern; nevertheless, a deep and integrative study of the etiological agents has never been carried out. Here, I describe for the first time the epidemiology of pathogenic enteric viruses during Hajj 2011, 2012 and 2013. The focus of this study was the common enteric viruses Astrovirus, Norovirus, Rotavirus and Adenovirus. An enzyme Immunoassay established their presence in 14.9%, 15.0% and 6.6% of the reported cases of acute diarrhea for 2011, 2012 and 2013, respectively. For the three years of study, Astrovirus accounted for the majority of the viral infections. To our knowledge, this is the first time an epidemiological study depicts Astrovirus as the main viral agent of gastroenteritis in a mass gathering event. Hajj is rich in strains of Astrovirus, Norovirus and Rotavirus. A first screening by RT-PCR resulted in ten different genotypes. Strains HAstV 2, HAstV 1 and HAstV 5 were identified for Astrovirus. GI.6, GII.3, GII.4 and GII.1 were described for Norovirus and G1P[8], G4P[8] and G3P[8] were found for Rotavirus. The majority of the Astrovirus isolates could not be genotyped suggesting the presence of a new variant(s). Cases like this encourage the use of metagenomics (and nextgeneration sequencing) as a state-of-the-art technology in clinical diagnosis. A sample containing Adenovirus particles is being used to standardize a process for detection directly from stool samples and results will be obtained in the near future. The overall findings of the present study support the concept of Hajj as a unique mass gathering event that potentiates the transmission of infectious diseases. The finding of Norovirus GII.4 Sydney, a variant originated from Australia, suggests that Hajj is a receptor of infectious diseases worldwide. This work is part of the Hajj project, a collaborative effort with the Ministry of Health of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in order to describe entirely the epidemiology of gastrointestinal diseases in Hajj. It is expected that the results of this study will serve in the refinement of public health policies.
Date of AwardMay 2014
Original languageEnglish (US)
Awarding Institution
  • Biological, Environmental Sciences and Engineering
SupervisorArnab Pain (Supervisor)


  • Epidemiology
  • Hajj
  • Astrovirus
  • Norovirus
  • Rotavirus
  • Adenovirus

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