Comparison of results of detection of rhinovirus by PCR and viral culture in human nasal wash specimens from subjects with and without clinical symptoms of respiratory illness.

Research paper by Peter F PF Wright, Anne M AM Deatly, Ruth A RA Karron, Robert B RB Belshe, Jian R JR Shi, William C WC Gruber, Yuwei Y Zhu, Valerie B VB Randolph

Indexed on: 04 May '07Published on: 04 May '07Published in: Journal of clinical microbiology


Human rhinoviruses (HRV) cause acute upper respiratory illness. The frequency of HRV-associated illnesses appears greater when PCR assays are used to detect rhinoviruses. The present study performed PCR-based detection of HRV upon entry of subjects into respiratory syncytial virus and parainfluenza type 3 vaccine trials when subjects were symptom-free and upon subsequent development of clinical symptoms of respiratory illness during the trial. The background of HRV PCR positivity in symptom-free individuals (30/139 [22%]) was only slightly lower than in those with respiratory illness (28/77 [36%]). For subjects with multiple samples, it was estimated that HRV was detectable by PCR for approximately 100 days before, during, and after clinical symptoms were documented. PCR is a remarkably more sensitive method of detecting HRV than is tissue culture. The presence of HRV RNA may not always reflect an association with infectious virus production. The limited association of HRV RNA with illness suggests caution in assigning causality of HRV PCR positivity to clinical symptoms of respiratory illness.

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