From October 1977 to May 1980, 243 stools collected in sedentary and semi-nomadic populations of the Ahaggar (Algerian Sahara) were examined using immunoelectronmicroscopy and tissue culture inoculation. Immunoelectron-microscopy revealed the presence of rotaviruses in 8, coronaviruses in 26, adenoviruses in 5 and small round viruses in 4. Enteroviruses were isolated in tissue culture from 24 stools.
Rotaviruses were present in the Ahaggar but were associated with little acute enteric disease. The high frequency of coronaviruses both in gastroenteritis patients and in patients without disease was surprising. The prevalence of enteroviruses in this hyperarid zone was similar to or higher than that found in noticeably more humid countries.
Further systematic bacterial, viral and parasitic examinations are required to clarify the role of the above viruses in the aetiology of gastroenteritis in this region.