ASTRONET: the astrovirus project

Human astroviruses (HAstVs) are enteric viruses associated with gastroenteritis in both developed and developing countries. HAstVs are associated to sporadic cases of gastro-enteritis (mostly in children and in the ederly) and/or to large community outbreaks. The incidence of HAstVs in children with gastroenteritis can reach 10%. Trasmission of HAstVs may occur with either direct contact or with consumption of contaminated food (seafood, raw vegetables) and water.

HAstVs were first detected in the mid 1970s. They are classified into eight serotypes, comprising several lineages, although forming a unique species in the Mamastrovirus genus. The incidence and distribution of HAstVs types varies seasonally and geographically. Co-circulation of more HAstV types and/or intratypic genetic variants may occur in a settled population, although type-1 HAstVs are predominant. In addition, animal-like astroviruses (MLB, VA, HMO), belonging to two distinct genetic groups, have been identified in recent years using metagenomic approaches and the role/relevance of these novel astroviruses in the human host remains to be assessed. Also, novel animal astroviruses have been discovered recently, as the result of increased interest for these enteric pathogens and of the awareness of the potential zoonotic risks.

ASTRONET is one of the projects developed and maintained by ISGEV. The ASTRONET project has the following tasks:

i) to clarify the epidemiological role of HAstVs as agents of sporadic padiatric enteritis in Italy through the development of a network of collaborating laboratories and standardization of the diagnostic procedures;

ii) to characterise genetically the circulating HAstV strains in order to monitor the dynamics of circulation of HAstV types/variants  and the emergence of variants/novel strains;

iii) to develop a web tool for rapid characterization of HAstV strains/variants;

iv) to hunt for novel/unusual astroviruses in humans and animals.


1: De Grazia S, Medici MC, Pinto P, Moschidou P, Tummolo F, Calderaro A, Bonura F, Banyai K, Giammanco GM, Martella V. Genetic heterogeneity and recombination in human type 2 astroviruses. J Clin Microbiol. 2012 Nov;50(11):3760-4. doi: 10.1128/JCM.02102-12.

 2: De Grazia S, Martella V, Chironna M, Bonura F, Tummolo F, Calderaro A, Moschidou P, Giammanco GM, Medici MC. Nationwide surveillance study of human astrovirus infections in an Italian paediatric population. Epidemiol Infect. 2012 May 17:1-5.

 3: Martella V, Moschidou P, Catella C, Larocca V, Pinto P, Losurdo M, Corrente M, Lorusso E, Bànyai K, Decaro N, Lavazza A, Buonavoglia C. Enteric disease in dogs naturally infected by a novel canine astrovirus. J Clin Microbiol. 2012 Mar;50(3):1066-9. doi: 10.1128/JCM.05018-11.

 4: Martella V, Moschidou P, Pinto P, Catella C, Desario C, Larocca V, Circella E, Bànyai K, Lavazza A, Magistrali C, Decaro N, Buonavoglia C. Astroviruses in rabbits. Emerg Infect Dis. 2011 Dec;17(12):2287-93. doi: 10.3201/eid1712.110967.

 5: Moschidou P, Martella V, Lorusso E, Desario C, Pinto P, Losurdo M, Catella C, Parisi A, Bányai K, Buonavoglia C. Mixed infection by Feline astrovirus and Feline panleukopenia virus in a domestic cat with gastroenteritis and panleukopenia. J Vet Diagn Invest. 2011 May;23(3):581-4. doi: 10.1177/1040638711404149.

  6: De Grazia S, Platia MA, Rotolo V, Colomba C, Martella V, Giammanco GM. Surveillance of human astrovirus circulation in Italy 2002-2005: emergence of lineage 2c strains. Clin Microbiol Infect. 2011 Jan;17(1):97-101. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-0691.2010.03207.x.

 7: Medici MC, Tummolo F, Albonetti V, Abelli LA, Chezzi C, Calderaro A. Molecular detection and epidemiology of astrovirus, bocavirus, and sapovirus in Italian children admitted to hospital with acute gastroenteritis, 2008-2009. J Med Virol. 2012 Apr;84(4):643-50.


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