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Lower respiratory tract illnesses (LRIs) occurring during the first 3 years of life among children enrolled in the Tucson Children's Respiratory Study have been studied for evidence of viral, mycoplasmal and Chlamydia trachomatis infections. This report examines those from whom adequate acute and convalescent sera were available at the time of the LRI. Two groups were compared: those in whom culture and/or antigen detection yielded an etiologic agent (N = 110); and those who did not (culture negative, N = 124). Seroconversions (fold titer rise) to respiratory syncytial virus; influenza virus types A and B; parainfluenza virus types 1, 2 and 3; or adenovirus were found in only 0 to 5% of the culture negative group. No significant differences between groups with regard to frequencies of seroconversion to influenza type C, parainfluenza virus type 4, human coronaviruses 229E and OC43 or cytomegalovirus were detected, which suggests that these agents may not be frequent primary causes of LRIs among otherwise healthy children. Significant differences in seroconversions to Epstein Barr virus were detected, suggesting that Epstein-Barr virus may contribute to LRI morbidity; however, its exact role remains to be defined.