Respiratory RNA Viruses

Microbiol Spectr. 2016 Aug;4(4). doi: 10.1128/microbiolspec.DMIH2-0028-2016.


Acute upper and lower respiratory infections are a major public health problem and a leading cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide. At greatest risk are young children, the elderly, the chronically ill, and those with suppressed or compromised immune systems. Viruses are the predominant cause of respiratory tract illnesses and include RNA viruses such as respiratory syncytial virus, influenza virus, parainfluenza virus, metapneumovirus, rhinovirus, and coronavirus. Laboratory testing is required for a reliable diagnosis of viral respiratory infections, as a clinical diagnosis can be difficult since signs and symptoms are often overlapping and not specific for any one virus. Recent advances in technology have resulted in the development of newer diagnostic assays that offer great promise for rapid and accurate detection of respiratory viral infections. This chapter emphasizes the fundamental characteristics and clinical importance of the various RNA viruses that cause upper and lower respiratory tract diseases in the immunocompromised host. It highlights the laboratory methods that can be used to make a rapid and definitive diagnosis for the greatest impact on the care and management of ill patients, and the prevention and control of hospital-acquired infections and community outbreaks.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Clinical Laboratory Techniques / methods
  • Diagnostic Tests, Routine / methods
  • Humans
  • Immunocompromised Host*
  • RNA Virus Infections / diagnosis
  • RNA Virus Infections / epidemiology*
  • RNA Virus Infections / virology*
  • RNA Viruses / classification
  • RNA Viruses / isolation & purification*
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / diagnosis
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / epidemiology*
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / virology*