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Am J Med. 2003 Sep;115(4):272-7.

Epidemiology of respiratory viruses in patients hospitalized with near-fatal asthma, acute exacerbations of asthma, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

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Department of Medicine, National University of Singapore, Singapore.



We compared the prevalence and spectrum of common respiratory viruses among patients with near-fatal asthma, acute exacerbations of asthma, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and the relation of these findings to acute respiratory symptoms.


We obtained adequate samples of respiratory secretions from 17 patients hospitalized with near-fatal asthma, 29 with acute asthma, and 14 with COPD. We used a polymerase chain reaction-based method to test for six common respiratory viruses in samples from endotracheal tube aspirates from patients with near-fatal asthma, and from induced sputum specimens from patients with acute asthma or COPD. Respiratory symptoms (runny nose, sore throat, fever, chills, malaise, and cough) were recorded. Quiescent-phase induced sputum specimens were examined from patients who were initially virus positive.


Viral nucleic acids were detected in 52% (31/60) of acute-phase specimens and 7% (2/29) of quiescent-phase specimens examined (P <0.001), with similar proportions of virus-positive patients during the acute phase in the three groups: 59% (10/17) of those with near-fatal asthma, 41% (12/29) with acute asthma, and 64% (9/14) with COPD. Picornavirus (47% [n = 8]) and adenovirus (24% [n = 4]) were most commonly identified in near-fatal asthma, whereas influenza virus (36% [n = 5]) predominated in COPD. Virus-positive patients had a significantly increased frequency of runny nose, sore throat, fever, chills, and malaise (odds ratio = 4.1 to 18; P = 0.02 to 0.001).


Respiratory viruses are associated with hospitalizations for near-fatal asthma, acute asthma, and COPD, with some differences in the spectrum of viruses involved in the different groups of patients. Respiratory viruses are a target for the prevention and perhaps the treatment of these conditions.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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