Respiratory pathogens in children with and without respiratory symptoms

J Pediatr. 2009 Mar;154(3):396-400, 400.e1. doi: 10.1016/j.jpeds.2008.08.036. Epub 2008 Sep 27.


Objectives: To investigate the occurrence of respiratory pathogens in samples from children with and without respiratory symptoms and to identify whether age and/ or coinfections modify the impact of respiratory pathogens on symptoms.

Study design: In a prospective longitudinal study, 18 children were sampled biweekly for respiratory pathogens, irrespective of respiratory symptoms. Polymerase chain reaction was performed for 13 respiratory pathogens. Episodes were defined "asymptomatic" if no symptoms of any respiratory tract illness were present between 1 week before and 1 week after sampling.

Results: A total of 230 samples were collected. In 56% of the symptomatic episodes, a pathogen was detected, compared with 40% of the asymptomatic episodes (P = .03). Rhinovirus and coronaviruses were most prevalent in both symptomatic and asymptomatic episodes. In the youngest children, 9% of the pathogen-positive episodes were asymptomatic, compared with 36% in the oldest children (P = .01). Multiple pathogens were found in 17% of the symptomatic episodes and in 3% of the asymptomatic episodes (P = .02).

Conclusions: Respiratory pathogens are frequently detected in samples from children with no respiratory symptoms. Symptomatic cases occurred more often in younger children and with detections of more than 1 respiratory pathogen.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Coronavirus / isolation & purification
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Picornaviridae Infections / epidemiology*
  • Picornaviridae Infections / virology*
  • Prevalence
  • Prospective Studies
  • Respiratory System / microbiology*
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / epidemiology*
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / microbiology*
  • Rhinovirus / isolation & purification