The pathogenicity of two rotavirus variants, 4F and 4S, obtained following adaptation to cell culture of rotavirus from a diarrhoeic pig in China, was compared by serial passage in 24 gnotobiotic piglets. The rotavirus variants have markedly different growth characteristics , and their genome profiles differ only in the relative migration of genes 4. Both cell culture-grown variants replicated to an equal extent in gnotobiotic piglets and neither caused disease, although weight gain was slightly affected in piglets inoculated with the 4F variant. During five serial pig-to-pig passages, variant 4F became highly pathogenic at the fourth and fifth passages, causing severe diarrhoea and weight loss, and premature death in two animals. Piglets inoculated with rotavirus variant 4S remained healthy during all passages although weight gain was slightly affected. Mean duration and peak infectivity titres of virus shedding were similar for both variants. Thus, variant 4F, which grew slowly and produced small plaques and had the faster migrating gene 4, was pathogenic in pigs, whereas variant 4S was apathogenic.


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