We investigated the etiology of reported sporadic suspected mumps cases with a negative RT-PCR result for the mumps virus in the Barcelona-South region in 2007-2011. Samples from mumps virus-negative patients presenting unilateral or bilateral parotitis or other salivary gland swelling were tested for Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) by real-time PCR and for respiratory viruses by two multiplex-PCR-based assays to detect parainfluenza virus (PIV) 1-4, influenza virus (InV) A, B and C, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), enterovirus, coronavirus 229E, coronavirus OC43, and rhinovirus. 101 samples were analyzed in persons aged 8 months to 50 years. Oral samples were collected on the first day of glandular swelling in 53 patients (52.5%), and on the first two days in 74 patients (73.3%). Viruses were detected in 52 (51.5%) of samples: one virus (25 EBV, 8 PIV3, 4 adenovirus, 4 PIV2, 1 PIV1, 1 InVA, and 1 enterovirus) was detected in 44 patients (84.6%), two viruses in 7 patients, and three viruses in one patient. In 58 patients (57.5%) whose sample was collected in the first 2 days after onset of parotitis and had received two doses of MMR vaccine and in 15 patients (14.8%) whose sample was collected on the first day, it is very likely that the cause was not the mumps virus. This would mean that 72.3% (73/101) of the reported sporadic suspected mumps cases were not mumps cases. The timing of oral-sample collection is crucial to correctly interpret the negative results for mumps virus RNA, especially when suspected cases occur in vaccinated persons.
Keywords: MMR vaccine; laboratory diagnosis; mumps virus; parotitis; sample collection timing; suspected cases.