Human parainfluenza viruses (HPIVs) are single-stranded, enveloped RNA viruses of the Paramyoviridaie family. There are four serotypes which cause respiratory illnesses in children and adults. HPIVs bind and replicate in the ciliated epithelial cells of the upper and lower respiratory tract and the extent of the infection correlates with the location involved. Seasonal HPIV epidemics result in a significant burden of disease in children and account for 40% of pediatric hospitalizations for lower respiratory tract illnesses (LRTIs) and 75% of croup cases. Parainfluenza viruses are associated with a wide spectrum of illnesses which include otitis media, pharyngitis, conjunctivitis, croup, tracheobronchitis, and pneumonia. Uncommon respiratory manifestations include apnea, bradycardia, parotitis, and respiratory distress syndrome and rarely disseminated infection. Immunity resulting from disease in childhood is incomplete and reinfection with HPIV accounts for 15% of respiratory illnesses in adults. Severe disease and fatal pneumonia may occur in elderly and immunocompromised adults. HPIV pneumonia in recipients of hematopoietic stem cell transplant (HSCT) is associated with 50% acute mortality and 75% mortality at 6 months. Though sensitive molecular diagnostics are available to rapidly diagnose HPIV infection, effective antiviral therapies are not available. Currently, treatment for HPIV infection is supportive with the exception of croup where the use of corticosteroids has been found to be beneficial. Several novel drugs including DAS181 appear promising in efforts to treat severe disease in immunocompromised patients, and vaccines to decrease the burden of disease in young children are in development.
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