Respiratory virus detectives

Acute respiratory disease (ARD) accounts for an estimated 75% of acute morbidities in developed countries and most of these infections (approximately 80%) are viral. 

Upper respiratory tract infections (URTI) can lead to asthma exacerbations and otitis media, and lower respiratory tract infections (LRTI) to bronchitis and pneumonia. 

Acute viral respiratory tract infection is the leading cause of hospitalisation for infants and young children in developed countries and is a major cause of death in developing countries. 

Studies in Britain have shown that of 50 cases of children with LRTI, only one showed evidence of a bacterial pneumonia. 

By far the majority of these cases appeared to be viral in origin. A high proportion of respiratory problems in small children do not respond to antibiotics and are presumed to be viral. 

Bacterial infections are important because they can be life-threatening and are