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Human rhinovirus C: Age, season, and lower respiratory illness over the past 3 decades.

BACKGROUND: Human rhinoviruses (HRVs) cause common colds, and the recently discovered HRV-C is increasingly associated with lower respiratory illness among populations such as children and asthmatic patients.

OBJECTIVE: To determine how HRV-C is associated with respiratory illness and to evaluate changes in prevalence and species over 2 decades.

METHODS: A prospective study of children younger than 5 years was performed at the Vanderbilt Vaccine Clinic over a 21-year period. Nasal-wash specimens from children presenting with upper or lower respiratory illness at acute care visits were tested for HRV and HRV-positives genotyped. Demographic and clinical features were compared between children with or without HRV, and with different HRV species.

RESULTS: HRV was detected in 190 of 527 (36%) specimens from a population of 2009 children from 1982 through 2003. Of these, 36% were HRV-C. Age (P = .039) and month of illness (P < .001) were associated with HRV infection and HRV species. HRV-C was significantly associated with lower respiratory illness, compared with HRV-A (P = .014). HRV-A and HRV-C prevalence fluctuated throughout the 21-year period; HRV-C was more prevalent during winter (P = .058).

CONCLUSIONS: HRV-C is not a new virus but has been significantly associated with childhood lower respiratory illness in this population for several decades. Temporal changes in virus prevalence occur, and season may predict virus species. Our findings have implications for diagnostic, preventive, and treatment strategies due to the variation in disease season and severity based on species of HRV infection.

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