Viral infections of the lower respiratory tract: old viruses, new viruses, and the role of diagnosis

Clin Infect Dis. 2011 May;52 Suppl 4(Suppl 4):S284-9. doi: 10.1093/cid/cir043.


Viral infections of the lower respiratory tract cause an enormous disease burden in children, and the role of respiratory viruses in serious lower respiratory tract infections (LRTIs) in older adults is increasingly appreciated. Although viruses are responsible for a large proportion LRTIs, antibiotics are often prescribed. New diagnostic platforms have the potential to detect a wider range of established and newly discovered viruses with greater sensitivity. This will create additional challenges. Although it is clear that influenza, parainfluenza, respiratory syncytial virus, human metapneumovirus, and adenovirus are important causes of pneumonia, the role of rhinoviruses and some of the newly described viruses, including human coronaviruses and bocavirus, is harder to determine. Better diagnostic tests that establish the cause of LRTIs in children have the potential to both reduce overall antibiotic use and to improve the targeted use of antibiotics. In addition, rapid identification of viral infections can help control nosocomial transmission.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cross Infection / prevention & control
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / diagnosis*
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / epidemiology
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / therapy*
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / virology
  • Virus Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Virus Diseases / epidemiology
  • Virus Diseases / therapy*
  • Virus Diseases / virology
  • Viruses / classification
  • Viruses / isolation & purification*


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents