Human metapneumovirus (hMPV) is a significant cause of acute lower respiratory tract infection in all age groups, particularly in children. Two genetic groups and four subgroups of hMPV have been described. They co-circulate during an epidemic in variable proportions. The aims were to characterize the genotypes of hMPV recovered from children hospitalized for acute lower respiratory tract infection and to establish the molecular epidemiology of strains circulating in Santiago of Chile during a 2-year period. The detection of the N gene by reverse-transcription polymerase chain reaction was carried out for screening 545 infants hospitalized for acute lower respiratory tract infection in Santiago during 2003-2004. The genetic typing of hMPV was performed by analyzing the fusion gene sequences. hMPV was detected in 10.2% (56/545 cases). Phylogenetic analysis of F gene sequences from 39 Chilean hMPV strains identified the two groups and four subgroups previously described. Strains clustered into group A were split further into the sub lineages A1, A2, and A3. Most Chilean strains clustered into the proposed novel A3 sub lineage (59%). A3 viruses were present in both years, while A1 and A2 circulated just in 1 year. In conclusion, hMPV is a relevant cause of acute lower respiratory infection in Chilean children and the potential novel cluster of group A emphasize the need for further regional genetic variability studies.
(c) 2008 Wiley-Liss, Inc.