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Cold Viruses Can Be Lethal in Lung-Transplant Recipients

Study shows that rhinoviral disease is not exclusively limited to the upper respiratory tract

FRIDAY, Dec. 15 (HealthDay News) -- In lung-transplant patients, human rhinovirus can infect both the upper and lower airways, leading to progressive respiratory failure, graft dysfunction and death, according to the results of a study published in the Dec. 15 issue of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine. Because this finding overturns conventional wisdom about rhinoviral infection, it may have applicability to patients with asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Laurent Kaiser, M.D., of the Central Laboratory of Virology at the University Hospitals of Geneva in Switzerland, and colleagues conducted a 19-month study of 68 lung-transplant recipients.

In these transplant recipients, rhinoviral infections were documented in bronchoalveolar lavage specimens of 10 patients, and two presented with a persistent infection. Three lung-transplant recipients with graft dysfunctions were found to have rhinovirus in upper and lower respiratory specimens over a 12-month period.

"The report by Kaiser and colleagues ends once and for all the argument that rhinoviruses cannot infect the lower airways," state the authors of an accompanying editorial. "This report informs our understanding of the mechanisms underlying rhinovirus-induced exacerbations of asthma and COPD. Further studies on susceptibility to rhinovirus infection in all these populations are now required."

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