Human rhinoviruses: the cold wars resume

J Clin Virol. 2008 Aug;42(4):297-320. doi: 10.1016/j.jcv.2008.04.002. Epub 2008 May 27.


Background: Human rhinoviruses (HRVs) are the most common cause of viral illness worldwide but today, less than half the strains have been sequenced and only a handful examined structurally. This viral super-group, known for decades, has still to face the full force of a molecular biology onslaught. However, newly identified viruses (NIVs) including human metapneumovirus and bocavirus and emergent viruses including SARS-CoV have already been exhaustively scrutinized. The clinical impact of most respiratory NIVs is attributable to one or two major strains but there are 100+ distinct HRVs and, because we have never sought them independently, we must arbitrarily divide the literature's clinical impact findings among them. Early findings from infection studies and use of inefficient detection methods have shaped the way we think of 'common cold' viruses today.

Objectives: To review past HRV-related studies in order to put recent HRV discoveries into context.

Results: HRV infections result in undue antibiotic prescriptions, sizable healthcare-related expenditure and exacerbation of expiratory wheezing associated with hospital admission.

Conclusion: The finding of many divergent and previously unrecognized HRV strains has drawn attention and resources back to the most widespread and frequent infectious agent of humans; providing us the chance to seize the advantage in a decades-long cold war.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Common Cold / epidemiology*
  • Common Cold / virology*
  • Humans
  • Rhinovirus / genetics*
  • Rhinovirus / isolation & purification
  • Rhinovirus / physiology*