Respiratory viruses involved in influenza-like illness in a Greek pediatric population during the winter period of the years 2005–2008


  • Conflict of interest: All authors declared no conflict of interest.

  • Ethical approval: This study was approved by the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, Medical School.


Viruses are the major cause of pediatric respiratory tract infection and yet many suspected cases of illness remain uncharacterized. This study aimed to determine the distribution of several respiratory viruses in children diagnosed as having influenza-like illness, over the winter period of 2005–2008. Molecular assays including conventional and real time PCR protocols, were employed to screen respiratory specimens, collected by clinicians of the Influenza sentinel system and of outpatient pediatric clinics, for identification of several respiratory viruses. Of 1,272 specimens tested, 814 (64%) were positive for at least one virus and included 387 influenza viruses, 160 rhinoviruses, 155 respiratory syncytial viruses, 95 adenoviruses, 81 bocaviruses, 47 parainfluenza viruses, 44 metapneumoviruses, and 30 coronaviruses. Simultaneous presence of two or three viruses was observed in 173 of the above positive cases, 21% of which included influenza virus and rhinovirus. The majority of positive cases occurred during January and February. Influenza virus predominated in children older than 1 year old, with type B being the dominant type for the first season and subtypes A/H3N2 and A/H1N1 the following two winter seasons, respectively. Respiratory syncytial virus prevailed in children younger than 2 years old, with subtypes A and B alternating from year to year. This is the most comprehensive study of the epidemiology of respiratory viruses in Greece, indicating influenza, rhinovirus and respiratory syncytial virus as major contributors to influenza-like illness in children. J. Med. Virol. 83:1841–1848, 2011. © 2011 Wiley-Liss, Inc.