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BACKGROUND: The dominant viral etiologies responsible for acute respiratory infections (ARIs) are poorly understood, particularly among hospitalized children in resource-limited tropical countries where morbidity and mortality caused by ARIs are highest. Improved etiological insight is needed to improve clinical management and prevention. OBJECTIVES: We conducted a three-year prospective descriptive study of severe respiratory illness among children from 2 months to 13 years of age within the largest referral hospital for infectious diseases in southern Vietnam. METHODS: Molecular detection for 15 viral species and subtypes was performed on three types of respiratory specimens (nose, throat swabs and nasopharyngeal aspirates) using a multiplex RT-PCR kit (Seeplex™ RV detection, Seegene) and additional monoplex real-time RT-PCRs. RESULTS: A total of 309 children were enrolled from November 2004 to January 2008. Viruses were identified in 72% (222/309) of cases, including respiratory syncytial virus (24%), influenza virus A and B (17%), human bocavirus (16%), enterovirus (9%), human coronavirus (8%), human metapneumovirus (7%), parainfluenza virus 1-3 (6%), adenovirus (5%), and human rhinovirus A (4%). Co-infections with multiple viruses were detected in 20% (62/309) of patients. When combined, diagnostic yields in nose and throat swabs were similar to nasopharyngeal aspirates. CONCLUSION: Similar to other parts in the world, RSV and influenza were the predominant viral pathogens detected in Vietnamese hospitalized children. Combined nasal and throat swabs are the specimens of choice for sensitive molecular detection of a broad panel of viral agents. Further research is required to better understand the clinical significance of single versus multiple viral coinfections and to address the role of bacterial (co-)infections involved in severe respiratory illness.

Original publication




Journal article


PLoS One

Publication Date





Adolescent, Age Distribution, Child, Child, Hospitalized, Child, Preschool, Female, Humans, Infant, Male, Prospective Studies, Respiratory Tract Infections, Seasons, Vietnam