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J Med Virol. 2009 Aug;81(8):1498-507. doi: 10.1002/jmv.21548.

Correlation of rhinovirus load in the respiratory tract and clinical symptoms in hospitalized immunocompetent and immunocompromised patients.

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Servizio di Virologia, Fondazione IRCCS Policlinico San Matteo, Pavia, Italy.


While human rhinoviruses (HRVs) are well accepted as a major cause of common cold syndromes (rhinitis), their role in the etiology of lower respiratory tract infections is still controversial, and their detection in asymptomatic patients is relatively common. The HRV pathogenic role in four groups of hospitalized patients (pediatric immunocompetent and immunocompromised patients, and adult immunocompetent and immunocompromised patients) was investigated by quantifying HRV load in nasopharyngeal aspirates or bronchoalveolar lavage samples by real-time reverse transcription PCR (RT-PCR). Real-time RT-PCR was performed in duplicate on all respiratory samples resulting positive by qualitative RT-PCR. In addition, molecular typing allowed detection of all known HRV species (A, B, and C). In immunocompetent pediatric patients HRVs were mostly associated with lower respiratory tract infections (in the absence of other viral agents) and wheezing, when viral load was > or =10(6) RNA copies/ml. In young immunocompromised patients (stem cell transplantation recipients), an inverse correlation between HRV persistence over time and time at which the infection occurred after transplantation was observed, whereas in adult immunocompromised patients (lung transplant recipients) HRVs could be detected at a medium-low level (<10(5) RNA copies/ml) in bronchoalveolar lavage samples taken routinely from asymptomatic patients. In conclusion, when detected at high viral load, HRVs may cause severe upper and lower respiratory tract infections, whereas when detected at a medium-low viral load, an event more frequent in immunocompromised subjects, they may represent only bystander viruses.

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