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Co-circulation of genetically distinct human metapneumovirus and human bocavirus strains in young children with respiratory tract infections in Italy


  • Conflict of interest: None of the authors have financial or other conflicting interests with regard to the information described in this manuscript.


The discovery of human Metapneumovirus (hMPV) and human Bocavirus (hBoV) identified the etiological causes of several cases of acute respiratory tract infections in children. This report describes the molecular epidemiology of hMPV and hBoV infections observed following viral surveillance of children hospitalized for acute respiratory tract infections in Milan, Italy. Pharyngeal swabs were collected from 240 children ≤3 years of age (130 males, 110 females; median age, 5.0 months; IQR, 2.0–12.5 months) and tested for respiratory viruses, including hMPV and hBoV, by molecular methods. hMPV-RNA and hBoV-DNA positive samples were characterized molecularly and a phylogenetical analysis was performed. PCR analysis identified 131/240 (54.6%) samples positive for at least one virus. The frequency of hMPV and hBoV infections was similar (8.3% and 12.1%, respectively). Both infections were associated with lower respiratory tract infections: hMPV was present as a single infectious agent in 7.2% of children with bronchiolitis, hBoV was associated with 18.5% of pediatric pneumonias and identified frequently as a single etiological agent. Genetically distinct hMPV and hBoV strains were identified in children examined with respiratory tract infections. Phylogenetic analysis showed an increased prevalence of hMPV genotype A (A2b sublineage) compared to genotype B (80% vs. 20%, respectively) and of the hBoV genotype St2 compared to genotype St1 (71.4% vs. 28.6%, respectively). Interestingly, a shift in hMPV infections resulting from A2 strains has been observed in recent years. In addition, the occurrence of recombination events between two hBoV strains with a breakpoint located in the VP1/VP2 region was identified. J. Med. Virol. 83:156–164, 2011. © 2010 Wiley-Liss, Inc.