Rhinovirus and respiratory syncytial virus in wheezing children requiring emergency care. IgE and eosinophil analyses

Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 1999 Mar;159(3):785-90. doi: 10.1164/ajrccm.159.3.9801052.


This cross-sectional emergency department study of 70 wheezing children and 59 control subjects (2 mo to 16 yr of age) examined the prevalence of respiratory viruses and their relationship to age, atopic status, and eosinophil markers. Nasal washes were cultured for respiratory viruses, assayed for respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) antigen, and tested for coronavirus and rhinovirus RNA using reverse transcription-PCR (RT-PCR). Also evaluated were eosinophil numbers and eosinophil cationic protein (ECP) in both nasal washes and serum, along with total IgE and specific IgE antibody in serum. Respiratory viruses were detected in 82% (18 of 22) of wheezing infants younger than 2 yr of age and in 83% (40 of 48) of older wheezing children. The predominant pathogens were RSV in infants (detected in 68% of wheezing subjects) and rhinovirus in older wheezing children (71%), and both were strongly associated with wheezing (p < 0.005). RSV was largely limited to wheezing children younger than 24 mo of age, but rhinovirus was detected by RT-PCR in 41% of all infants and in 35% of nonwheezing control subjects older than 2 yr of age. After 2 yr of age the strongest odds for wheezing were observed among those who had a positive RT-PCR test for rhinovirus together with a positive serum radioallergosorbent testing (RAST), nasal eosinophilia, or elevated nasal ECP (odds ratios = 17, 21, and 25, respectively). Results from this study demonstrate that a large majority of emergent wheezing illnesses during childhood (2 to 16 yr of age) can be linked to infection with rhinovirus, and that these wheezing attacks are most likely in those who have rhinovirus together with evidence of atopy or eosinophilic airway inflammation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Blood Proteins / analysis
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Common Cold / blood
  • Common Cold / complications
  • Common Cold / diagnosis*
  • Coronavirus / isolation & purification
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Emergency Service, Hospital
  • Eosinophil Granule Proteins
  • Eosinophils*
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulin E / blood*
  • Infant
  • Inflammation Mediators / analysis
  • Leukocyte Count*
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Respiratory Sounds / etiology*
  • Respiratory Syncytial Virus Infections / blood
  • Respiratory Syncytial Virus Infections / complications
  • Respiratory Syncytial Virus Infections / diagnosis*
  • Respiratory Syncytial Virus, Human / isolation & purification
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / diagnosis*
  • Rhinovirus* / isolation & purification
  • Ribonucleases*


  • Blood Proteins
  • Eosinophil Granule Proteins
  • Inflammation Mediators
  • Immunoglobulin E
  • Ribonucleases