Background: Human rhinoviruses and enteroviruses (Picornaviridae) are suspected to be major viral etiological causes of bronchiolitis in infants.
Objectives: In the present study, we assessed the potential role of the respiratory picornaviruses as causative agents of bronchiolitis in French infants.
Study design: From September 2001 to June 2002, we prospectively selected 192 infants < or =36 months of age and hospitalized for acute bronchiolitis. The detection of common respiratory viruses (respiratory syncytial virus, influenza virus A and B, parainfluenza virus 1, 2, 3 and adenovirus) was performed using classical immunofluorescence antigen and cell-culture detection assays on nasopharyngeal aspirates whereas the detection of human metapneumovirus (HMPV) was performed by a real-time RT-PCR assay. The presence of rhinovirus and/or enterovirus was assessed in respiratory samples by a picornavirus RT-PCR detection assay followed by a differential Southern blotting procedure.
Results: A potential causative virus was detected in 72.5% of the 192 study infants. RSV (30%), rhinovirus (21%), enterovirus (9%), influenza virus A (6%) and human metapneumovirus (4%) were the most frequent causative agents detected. Rhinoviruses or enteroviruses were detected as the only evidence of respiratory viral tract infection in 57 (30%) of 192 infants, whereas rhinovirus or enterovirus occurred in mixed viral infection detected in 25 (13%) of 192 study cases (30% versus 13%, p<10(-3)).
Conclusions: Our data suggest that respiratory picornaviruses are one of the leading etiological causes of bronchiolitis in French infants. These findings highlight the need to implement a rapid picornavirus RT-PCR detection assay for the clinical diagnosis of respiratory infections in pediatric patients with bronchiolitis.