QNRF Newsletter Archive

Respiratory tract infections in children

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hMPV virus responsible for many respiratory infections in children.
Respiratory tract infections are the second-leading cause of death, worldwide, for children under five years of age. Given that statistic it is remarkable that until recently we had very little information on what viral agent was causing these infections in over half of all cases. However work carried at Hamad Medical Corporation and Qatar University suggests that a previously unknown pathogen, known as human metapneumovirus (hMPV), may be responsible for infection in a substantial proportion of cases.

In the pediatric population, the major causes of bronchiolitis and lower respiratory tract infections (LRTIs) are respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), parainfluenza viruses (PIV) and influenza virus (IV). However, a viral agent can only be identified in 40% of LRTIs, even with state-of-the-art genomic amplification methods. Furthermore, infectious diseases cannot be identified in almost half of upper respiratory tract illnesses (URTI) occurring in children.

However, the human metapneumovirus has been shown recently to be an etiological agent of acute respiratory infections in children and infants with similar clinical symptoms to those caused by RSV. The aim of the project, funded by QNRF, was to determine the prevalence of hMPV and its potential role as a causative agent of RTIs in children in Qatar.

Samples from children presenting at Al-Saad Pediatric Emergency Center in Doha with RTIs were taken using nasopharyngeal aspirates. These 84 samples were then analyzed for nine respiratory viruses at the same time.

Respiratory viruses were detected in 56 of the 84 children, most of whom presented with cough, nasal discharge, shortness of breath and fever. Remarkably, 54 of the 56 infected children showed signs of infection by the hMPV. This very high incidence of the virus in children aged from under six months to five years is expected to have significant clinical implications in the patient population in Qatar.

Future work will focus on larger patient samples and also cover the month of December, one of the peak months for hMPV infection.

UREP, 2nd Cycle
Prevalence and clinical symptoms of hMPV infection in Qatar
Submitting Institution: Qatar University
Collaborative Institutions: Hamad Medical Corporation
Link to project on QNRF website. 
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