Human metapneumovirus-associated respiratory tract infections in the Republic of Ireland during the influenza season of 2003–2004


Corresponding author and reprint requests: B. Crowley, Department of Clinical Microbiology, St James's Hospital, Dublin, Ireland


Human metapneumovirus (hMPV) is a newly identified paramyxovirus that has been associated with respiratory tract illness in children aged < 5 years, the elderly, and immunocompromised patients. This study determined the frequency of respiratory tract infections (RTIs) associated with hMPV in the Republic of Ireland. Bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) samples from 168 adult patients and respiratory specimens from 122 children aged < 5 years were collected between September 2003 and May 2004. The virus was detected by reverse-transcription (RT)-PCR using hMPV polymerase (L) and matrix (M)-specific primers in four (2.4%) of 171 BAL specimens obtained from 168 adults. No other respiratory virus was detected in these specimens, and no hMPV RNA was detected in respiratory specimens from children during the same time period. In all four adult cases, two of whom had underlying disease, hMPV was associated with mild, self-limiting upper RTIs. The most common clinical findings included fever (3/4 patients), cough (4/4) and rhinorrhoea (3/4). No patient died as a result of these RTI episodes. Phylogenetic analysis was performed using the amplified regions of the M and fusion (F) genes of hMPV. The Irish isolates belonged to cluster 1B, and did not show a separate Irish sub-lineage.