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Eur J Clin Microbiol Infect Dis. 2000 May;19(5):336-43.

Epidemiological investigation of nine respiratory pathogens in hospitalized children in Germany using multiplex reverse-transcriptase polymerase chain reaction.

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Pediatric Infectious Diseases, Department of General Pediatrics, Christian Albrechts University, Kiel, Germany.


The aim of this study was to generate urgently needed data on respiratory pathogens in German children using an economical and efficient tool. Nasopharyngeal aspirates of hospitalized children 0-16 years of age with an acute respiratory tract infection were tested by a nine-valent multiplex reverse-transcriptase polymerase chain reaction. Of 1281 children, 449 (35%) had an acute respiratory tract infection caused by at least one of the organisms studied; there were 29 cases of dual infection. At least 34-42% of severe acute respiratory tract infections in children under 5 years of age were caused by viruses. In children over 5 years of age, this proportion was 23% (P<0.001). Infection during the first 2 years of life was most frequently due to respiratory syncytial virus (n = 162 cases). Parainfluenza virus type 3 (n = 22) and type 1 (n = 14) were detected almost exclusively in children under 5 years of age. Influenza A (n = 90) and adenoviruses (n = 98) were prevalent in all age groups. The frequency of influenza B virus isolation (n = 17) rose significantly after the age of 5 years. Mycoplasma pneumoniae infection (n = 24 cases, 5.2%) was most frequent in 5- to 16-year-old patients. Only one case of Chlamydia pneumoniae infection was found. Since the distribution of pathogens within the different types of lower respiratory tract infections is very similar, it seems that host factors determine which form of lower respiratory tract infection develops in an individual patient. The multiplex reverse-transcriptase polymerase chain reaction may, in the future, become an important tool for epidemiological studies as well as for individual diagnosis.

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