Molecular Epidemiology of Human Metapneumovirus in Ireland

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Human metapneumovirus (hMPV) is a cause of respiratory illness ranging from wheezing to bronchiolitis and pneumonia in children. A quantitative real-time reverse-transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) assay was developed for the detection of all four main genetic lineages of hMPV and employed to validate an indirect immunofluorescence (IF) assay to detect hMPV positive specimens. The IF assay detected 24 positives from a screen of 625 randomly selected pediatric respiratory specimens collected (3.8% prevalence). From this cohort of 625 specimens, 229 were also tested by real-time RT-PCR assay. This included the 24 IF positive specimens and 205 randomly selected specimens from both study periods. In addition to confirming all the IF positives, the real-time assay detected an additional six hMPV positive specimens giving rise to a combined prevalence of 4.8%. Phylogenetic analysis showed that hMPV subtypes A2b and B2 to be the most prevalent genotypes circulating in our population and surprisingly no hMPV subgroups A1 or B1 were detected during this study period. Based on this phylogenetic analysis, we propose the existence of sub-clusters of hMPV genotype B2 present in our population which we term subtypes B2a and B2b. The mean log 10 copies/ml of quantitative RT-PCR determinations from these 30 hMPV positive respiratory specimens was 6.35 (range = 4.44–8.15). Statistical analysis of quantitative RT-PCR determinations of viral load from these 30 respiratory specimens suggests that hMPV genotype B specimens have a higher viral load than hMPV genotype A isolates (P< 0.03).

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