Global Prevalence of Asymptomatic Norovirus Infection in Outbreaks

Although many studies on asymptomatic norovirus infection in outbreaks have been conducted globally, structured data (important for emergency management of outbreaks) on the prevalence of this epidemic are still not available, researchers say. This study by Wang, et al. (2023) assessed the global prevalence of asymptomatic norovirus infection in outbreaks.

The researchers identified publications on asymptomatic infections from norovirus outbreaks by searching the PubMed, Embase, Cochrane Library, Medline, and Web of Science databases and screening references from the articles reviewed. Prevalence of asymptomatic norovirus infection in outbreaks was employed as the primary summary data.

In total, 44 articles with a sample size of 8,115 asymptomatic individuals were included. The estimated pooled prevalence of asymptomatic norovirus infection in outbreaks was 21.8% (95%CI, 17.4–27.3). The asymptomatic prevalence of norovirus GII (20.1%) was similar to that of GI (19.8%); however, the proportion prevalence of asymptomatic individuals involved in the former (33.36%) was significantly higher than that of in the latter (0.92%) and the former (93.18%) was reported much more frequently than the latter (15.91%) in the included articles. These studies had significant heterogeneity (I2 = 92%, τ2 = 0.4021, P < 0.01). However, the source of heterogeneity could not be identified even after subgroup analysis of 10 possible influencing factors (geographical area, outbreak settings, outbreak seasons, sample types, norovirus genotypes, transmission routes, subjects’ occupations, subjects’ age, per capita national income, and clear case definition). Meta-regression analysis of these 10 factors demonstrated that the geographical area could be partly responsible for this heterogeneity (P = 0.012).

The researchers conclude that the overall pooled asymptomatic prevalence of norovirus in outbreaks was high, with genome II dominating. Asymptomatic individuals may play an important role in norovirus outbreaks. This knowledge could help in developing control strategies and public health policies for norovirus outbreaks.

Reference: Wang J, et al. Global prevalence of asymptomatic norovirus infection in outbreaks: a systematic review and meta-analysis. BMC Infectious Diseases. Vol. 23, article number 595 (2023).