Differences in clinical impact between rhinovirus (RVs) species and types in adults are not well established. The objective of this study was to determine the epidemiology and clinical impact of the different RV species.
We conducted a prospective study of RVs infections in adults with acute cough/lower respiratory tract infection (LRTI) and asymptomatic controls. Subjects were recruited from 16 primary care networks located in 11 European countries between 2007 and 2010. RV detection and genotyping was performed by means of real time and conventional reverse-transcriptase polymerase chain reaction assays, followed by sequence analysis. Clinical data were obtained from medical records and patient symptom diaries.
RVs were detected in 566 (19%) of 3016 symptomatic adults, 102 (4%) of their 2539 follow-up samples and 67 (4%) of 1677 asymptomatic controls. Genotyping was successful for 538 (95%) symptomatic subjects, 86 (84%) follow-up infections and 62 (93%) controls. RV-A was the prevailing species, associated with an increased risk of LRTI as compared with RV-B (relative risk (RR), 4.5; 95% CI 2.5 to 7.9; p<0.001) and RV-C (RR 2.2; 95% CI 1.2 to 3.9; p=0.010). In symptomatic subjects, RV-A loads were higher than those of RV-B (p=0.015). Symptom scores and duration were similar across species. More RV-A infected patients felt generally unwell in comparison to RV-C (p=0·023). Of the 140 RV types identified, five were new types; asymptomatic infections were associated with multiple types.
In adults, RV-A is significantly more often detected in cases with acute cough/LRTI than RV-C, while RV-B infection is often found in asymptomatic patients.