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Rhinovirus (RV) is the respiratory virus that has been most frequently associated with asthma exacerbations (40–60% using viral culture and molecular techniques in previous studies). This prospective, small, single centre study examined the role of RV in severe asthma exacerbations requiring admission to hospital using reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction detection in nasal wash samples at two different time points: hospital admission and 3 month convalescent follow up visit.
One hundred and one adult patients admitted with acute asthma to the Vanderbilt University Medical Centre, Nashville over a 4 year period were enrolled. Twenty one (21%) were found to be positive for RV at admission. Of these, 12 returned 3 months later for an outpatient convalescence visit; none were RV positive. Of the total 76 patients who returned for the 3 month visit, nasal wash samples were found to be positive for RV in only one. Interestingly, RV positive asthmatics had relatively mild disease and were less likely to have a history of hospitalisation for an asthma exacerbation. Current smoking history and non-use of inhaled corticosteroids (perhaps due to a high number of mild asthmatics) were significantly associated with RV infection.
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