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J Clin Microbiol. 1997 Nov;35(11):2864-8.

Frequency and natural history of rhinovirus infections in adults during autumn.

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Department of Internal Medicine, University of Virginia School of Medicine, Charlottesville 22908, USA.


Human rhinovirus (HRV) accounts for a significant portion of common-cold illness, with the peak incidence being in the early fall. Three hundred forty-six adults who had self-diagnosed colds of 48 h or less were enrolled in a study during September and October 1994 to determine the frequency and clinical course of HRV infections. Nasal wash specimens for viral culture and reverse transcription-PCR (RT-PCR) for HRV RNA and human coronavirus OC43 and 229E RNA detection were collected on enrollment, and participants recorded their symptoms twice daily for 14 days. Middle ear pressure (MEP) was measured with a digital tympanometer on days 1 and 7. Picornaviruses (224 HRV and 7 enterovirus isolates) were detected by culture in 67% (231 of 346) of the subjects. Among 114 samples negative by culture, HRV was detected by RT-PCR in 52 (46%) for an overall picornavirus infection rate of 82% (283 of 346 subjects). Among the remaining 62 negative samples, human coronavirus RNA was detected by RT-PCR in 5 patients, so that 288 (83%) of patients had documented viral infection. The first symptom noticed most often was sore throat (40%) in HRV culture- or PCR-positive patients and stuffy nose in HRV-negative patients (27%). No differences in symptom scores over time or in the presence of individual symptoms were noted between groups. The median duration of the cold episodes was 11 days in HRV culture-positive patients, 9.5 days in HRV RT-PCR-positive patients, and 11.5 days in HRV-negative patients. On enrollment, abnormal MEPs (< or = -100 or > or = +100 mm of H2O) were found for 21% of HRV culture-positive patients, 14% of HRV RT-PCR-positive patients, and 10% of HRV-negative patients. No important differences in the clinical course of HRV culture-positive, HRV culture-negative and RT-PCR-positive, or HRV-negative colds were found. These results represent the highest frequency of virologically confirmed natural colds to date and document the importance of rhinoviruses as the cause of colds during fall months.

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