BACKGROUND: Necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) is the most common gastrointestinal disease in neonatal intensive care units. Although the pathogenesis of NEC remains unclear, evidence suggests that infections, especially bacterial infections, may play an important role. Viral infections may also result in NEC. Several outbreaks of NEC associated with rotaviruses have been described previously.OBJECTIVE: To investigate the association between rotavirus (RV) and serum interleukin (IL)-6 and IL-8 levels in infants with NEC.METHODS: RV infections were prospectively studied using antigen detection in the stools of 31 infants with NEC. Additionally, serum levels of IL-6, IL-8 and tumour necrosis factor-alpha were tested using micro-ELISA at 0 h and 48 h after diagnosis of NEC.RESULTS: Fecal specimens from 13 infants were positive, while fecal specimens from 18 infants were negative for RV according to antigen detection (RV+ and RV− groups, respectively). The mortality rate and the severity of NEC were not significantly different between the RV+ and RV− groups. IL-6 levels at 0 h and 48 h after diagnosis of NEC in RV+ infants were lower compared with RV− infants, while IL-8 levels were greater at 0 h and 48 h after diagnosis of NEC in RV+ infants compared with RV− infants.CONCLUSION: A high prevalence of RV infection in neonates with NEC was found. Decreased IL-6 levels and increased IL-8 and tumour necrosis factor-alpha levels in RV+ neonates with NEC suggests a role for RV in NEC.