Objectives: The purpose of the present study was to apply reverse transcription-PCR (RT-PCR) assays to clinical specimens collected from patients with acute respiratory illness and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Methods: One hundred and ninety-four samples from two different study cohorts were analysed using RT-PCR assays for picornaviruses, coronaviruses 229E and OC43, influenza A and B viruses, respiratory syncytial virus, parainfluenza types 1-3 viruses, and human metapneumovirus and a PCR assay for adenoviruses. The results were added to results obtained previously using cell culture and serologic methods.
Results: RT-PCR assays identified an additional 35 respiratory virus-associated illnesses not identified previously by cell culture or serology (n=46). Picornaviruses and coronaviruses were the most common viral infections identified only by RT-PCR. Overall, 41.8% of the acute respiratory illnesses evaluated were associated with a respiratory virus infection, with picornaviruses, coronaviruses and influenza viruses being the most common infections recognized. No human metapneumovirus infections were identified by RT-PCR assay.
Conclusions: Respiratory viral infections are commonly associated with acute respiratory illness in COPD patients, and the use of RT-PCR assays significantly increases the ability to diagnose these infections.