Comparison of asymptomatic and symptomatic rhinovirus infections in university students: incidence, species diversity, and viral load

Diagn Microbiol Infect Dis. 2015 Aug;82(4):292-6. doi: 10.1016/j.diagmicrobio.2015.05.001. Epub 2015 May 7.


Human rhinovirus (HRV) infections are common but poorly characterized in university students. Thus, we characterized asymptomatic and symptomatic HRV infections by incidence, species diversity, and viral load of 502 university students during September and October of 2010 and 2011 from nasal swabs and electronically submitted symptom questionnaires. We tested all symptomatic students and randomly sampled participants who remained asymptomatic (n=25/week, over 8 weeks each study year) on a weekly basis by real-time PCR and sequenced HRV positives. HRV was identified in 33/400 (8.3%) and 85/92 (92.4%) of the asymptomatic and symptomatic students, respectively. We identified a higher than previously reported rate of HRV-B in both groups, although the distribution of HRV species was similar (P=0.37). Asymptomatic viral load averaged 1.2 log10 copies/mL lower than symptomatic HRV (P<0.001). In conclusion, asymptomatic HRV activity preceded peak symptomatic activity in September and October and was associated with lower viral load.

Keywords: Asymptomatic; Quantitative PCR; Rhinovirus; Species diversity; Viral load.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Asymptomatic Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Female
  • Genetic Variation*
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Nasal Mucosa / virology
  • Picornaviridae Infections / epidemiology
  • Picornaviridae Infections / pathology*
  • Picornaviridae Infections / virology*
  • Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Rhinovirus / classification*
  • Rhinovirus / isolation & purification*
  • Seasons
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA
  • Students
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Universities
  • Viral Load*
  • Young Adult