Date of Award


Document Type

Master Thesis

Degree Name

Masters of Science (Research)


Biological Sciences

First Advisor

Dr Helen O'Shea


Group A Rotaviruses(GARVs) are enteric pathogens which induce acute gastroenteritis in infants, neonates and the young of many animal species. During a 4 year study (2005-2009), 64 fecal samples from symptomatic foals, from several counties, in the south of Ireland, were molecularly characterized to determine the VP& (G type), VP4 (P type), and NSP4 antigenic specificities. Globally, G3 [P12] and G14[P12] are recognized as the predominant equine GARV strains. Twenty-two samples (34.38%) were found to contain G3 viruses, while 21 samples (32.81%) contained G14 viruses. In this study, there was a distinct increase in the incidence of mixed infections circulating among the Irish equine population. Twenty-one samples (32.81%) were shown to contain mixed infections (G3+G14). All 64 samples (100%) were characterized as [P12].

NSP4 phylogenetic analysis was also carried out on a selected number of samples, based upon the origin of each on the G type detected. The presence of mammalian genotypes E1 and E3 was confirmed. No other genotypes (E3-E14) were identified in the Irish equine samples. An equine vaccine, which is based on the American strain 112, G3AP[12] is currently available on the European market for the prevention of rotavirus-associated diarrhoea in foals in Ireland, and world-wide.

This study displays a notable increase in the number of mixed infections detected in Ireland and highlights the requirement for continual surveillance of rotavirus strains in equine species. This is not only vital for evaluating the efficacy of the currently available vaccines, but also to improve upon the current treatments, prophylactic methods and suggestions of precautionary measures which should be taken to prevent and manage future outbreaks.

Any change in the circulating profile could result in reduced vaccine efficacy and pose a serious thread for the Irish equine industry.

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