Molecular Epidemiology and Clinical Manifestations of Adenovirus Respiratory Infections in Taiwanese Children

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Human adenoviruses (HAdVs) are important causes of respiratory infections in children. They usually cause mild upper respiratory symptoms, but they can also produce severe pneumonia and other complications. The aims of this retrospective study were to better define the molecular epidemiology of respiratory adenoviruses circulating in Taiwanese children during 2002 and 2013, detect reinfections and co-infections, and characterize the clinical features and laboratory findings according to the causative genotypes.

We collected a representative sample of 182 isolates of adenoviruses from 175 children during the 12-year study period. The most prevalent species was HAdV-B genotype 3 (HAdV-3) (92/182, 50.5%) followed by HAdV-C (HAdV-2) (38/182, 20.9%). A single outbreak of HAdV-E (6/182, 3.3%) was noted in 2007. The mean age of children with adenovirus infections was 3.7 ± 2.0 years, with a slight predominance of males (53.1%). Children with HAdV-B tended to be older, had more lower respiratory tract infections, gastrointestinal symptoms, and a higher rate of hospitalization than those with HAdV-C (P < 0.05). Adenovirus co-infections were noted in 25/175 (14.3%) of the children. The most frequent co-infections were with species B (HAdV-3) and C (HAdV-2) (14/25, 56.0%). Additional infections were noted in 23/175 (13.1%) of the children. Of these repeated infections, the initial isolates were always genotypes of HAdV-C. The second isolates were genotypes of HAdV-B or HAdV-E. The clinical features of the first HAdV-B infection and the reinfection of HAdV-B followed the HAdV-C were similar.

In conclusion, HAdV-B, C, and E were the only adenovirus species that were isolated from children who were sufficiently ill with respiratory infections to require a visit to the hospital. Human adenovirus B (HAdV-3) accounted for half of these species. HAdV-B was more likely than other species to produce severe disease. The high incidence of adenovirus co-infection and reinfections with different HAdV species supports the need for continued surveillance and has major implications for development of vaccines.

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