Background: A high frequency of virus infections has been recently pointed out in the exacerbations of asthma in children.
Objectives: To confirm this, using conventional and molecular detection methods, and expanding the study to younger children.
Study design: One hundred and thirty-two nasal aspirates from 75 children hospitalized for a severe attack of asthma were studied (32 infants, mean age 9.1 months; and 43 children, mean age 5.6 years). According to the virus, a viral isolation technique, immunofluorescence assays (IFA) or both were used for the detection of rhinovirus, enterovirus, respiratory syncytial (RS) virus, adenovirus, coronavirus 229E, influenza and parainfluenza virus. Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assays were used for the detection of rhinovirus, enterovirus, RS virus, adenovirus, coronavirus 229E and OC43, Chlamydia pneumoniae and Mycoplasma pneumoniae.
Results: Using IFA and viral isolation techniques, viruses were detected in 33.3% of cases, and by PCR techniques, nucleic acid sequences of virus, Chlamydia pneumoniae and Mycoplasma pneumoniae were obtained in 71.9% of cases. The combination of conventional and molecular techniques detects 81.8% of positive samples. Two organisms were identified in the same nasal sample in 20.4% of the cases. The percentage of detections was higher (85.9%) in the younger group than in the other (77%). The most frequently detected agents were rhinovirus (46.9%) and RS virus (21.2%). Using PCR rather than conventional techniques, the detection rates were increased 5.8- and 1.6-fold in rhinovirus and RS virus infections, respectively. The detection levels of the other organisms are as follows: 9.8, 5.1, 4.5, 4.5, 4.5, 3.7, and 2.2% for enterovirus, influenza virus, Chlamydia pneumoniae, adenovirus, coronavirus, parainfluenza virus, and Mycoplasma pneumoniae, respectively.
Conclusion: These results confirm the previously reported high frequency of rhinovirus detection in asthmatic exacerbations in children. They also point out the frequency of RS virus detection, and emphasize the fact that PCR assays may be necessary to diagnose respiratory infections in asthma.