Pathogen Clearance and New Respiratory Tract Infections Among Febrile Children in Zanzibar Investigated With Multitargeting Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction on Paired Nasopharyngeal Swab Samples

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New molecular methods have revealed frequent and often polymicrobial respiratory infections in children in low-income settings. It is not known whether presence of multiple pathogens is due to prolonged infections or to frequent exposure. The aim of this study was to analyze short-term pathogen clearance from nasopharynx and the rate of new respiratory tract infections in febrile preschool children.


Children (n = 207) with uncomplicated acute febrile illness 2–59 months of age presenting to a health center in Zanzibar, Tanzania, April–July 2011, were included. Paired nasopharyngeal swab samples, collected at enrolment and after 14 days, were analyzed by multiple real-time polymerase chain reaction for Adenovirus, bocavirus, Bordetella pertussis, Chlamydophila pneumoniae, Coronaviruses, Enterovirus, influenza A and B virus, metapneumovirus, measles virus, Mycoplasma pneumoniae, parainfluenza virus, Parechovirus, respiratory syncytial virus and Rhinovirus. An age-matched and geographically matched healthy control group (n = 166) underwent nasopharyngeal sampling on 1 occasion.


At baseline, 157/207 (76%) patients had at least 1 pathogen detected, in total 199 infections. At follow-up (day 14), 162/199 (81%) of these infections were not detected, including >95% of the previously detected infections with Enterovirus, influenza A virus, influenza B virus, metapneumovirus or parainfluenza virus. Still 115 (56%) children were positive for at least 1 pathogen at follow-up, of which 95/115 (83%) were not found at baseline. Detection of influenza B on day 14 was significantly associated with fever during follow-up.


The results suggest that children with acute febrile illness in Zanzibar rapidly clear respiratory tract infections but frequently acquire new infections within 14 days.

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