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J Med Virol. 2005 Feb;75(2):336-47.

Monoclonal antibodies versus reverse transcription-PCR for detection of respiratory viruses in a patient population with respiratory tract infections admitted to hospital.

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  • 1Servizio di Virologia, IRCCS Policlinico San Matteo, Pavia, Italy.


In the winter season 2001-2002, 239 nasopharyngeal aspirate and 15 bronchoalveolar lavage samples from 208 patients (135 pediatric and 73 adults, including 19 lung transplant recipients) admitted to hospital because of an acute respiratory tract infection were examined for rapid diagnosis of respiratory viruses by two diagnostic approaches: immunological, using specific monoclonal antibodies (MAb); and molecular, using specific reverse transcription (RT)-PCR assays. Both methods detected influenza viruses A (H1N1 and H3N2) and B, human parainfluenza virus types 1 to 3, human respiratory syncytial virus (hRSV) types A and B, and human adenoviruses. In addition, human coronavirus (hCoV) groups I (229E-like) and II (OC43-like), as well as the new human metapneumovirus (hMPV), types A and B, were searched for by RT-PCR alone. When results obtained by both methods were added, the overall percentage of patients positive for at least one respiratory virus peaked at 44.2%, involving 92/208 patients (81 pediatric, and 11 adults), while 116 patients (55.8%) were negative for any respiratory virus tested. The most common circulating virus was hRSV, infecting 54 (25.9%) patients (24 type A, and 30 type B strains), followed by hMPV, infecting 12 (5.8%) patients (7 type A and 5 type B strains). Coinfections by two respiratory viruses interested 11 (5.3%) patients, and 9 (81.8%) of these were infected by hRSV in association with another respiratory virus. In the great majority of infected children, hRSV and hMPV were associated with lower respiratory tract infections. In lung transplant recipients, viruses present in bronchoalveolar lavage appeared to be associated frequently with lower respiratory tract infections.


the combination of immunological and molecular assays is the most sensitive approach to the diagnosis of respiratory viral infections; and infections caused by the less investigated hCoVs and hMPVs represent a fair proportion of respiratory infections.

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