A virus (strain WI61) representing a presumptive new human serotype was isolated from an 18-month-old child with gastroenteritis admitted to Children's Hospital of Philadelphia in February 1983. The WI61 virus was clearly distinguished by cross-neutralization tests from human rotaviruses of serotypes 1, 2, 3, and 4, human 69M, and representative bovine (NCDV), porcine (OSU), and chicken (Ch2) rotaviruses. Antisera generated in guinea pigs hyperimmunized to WI61 virus displayed a partial cross-reactivity with rotaviruses of human serotypes 1, 2, 3, and 4. By means of studies with reassortant rotaviruses, it was presumptively determined that the WI61 virus cross-reactive antigenic determinants are localized on the vp3 surface polypeptide coded by gene segment 4. The characteristic RNA genome electropherotype of WI61 virus was observed in 5 of 59 cases of infant gastroenteritis detected in 1983 and 1984 but has not been observed in a subsequently at Children's Hospital. Serotype WI61-specific neutralizing antibodies were observed in a majority of sera of normal adults and infants of less than 4 or greater than 12 months of age collected in the Philadelphia area. Median antibody titers to WI61 equaled or exceeded those to rotaviruses of serotype 1 or 3. Each of seven samples of commercial cow's milk exhibited neutralizing antibodies to WI61 virus at a titer greater than or equal to that to serotype 1 or 3 or bovine (strain NCDV) rotavirus. However, WI61 rotavirus did not induce disease or a specific serum-neutralizing antibody response when fed to a caesarean-derived colostrum-deprived newborn calf. WI61 rotavirus caused diarrhea in newborn mice with a 50% diarrhea-inducing dose of 10(7.0) PFU.