European Respiratory Society

Association between human rhinovirus C and severity of acute asthma in children

J. Bizzintino, W-M. Lee, I.A. Laing, F. Vang, T. Pappas, G. Zhang, A.C. Martin, G.C. Geelhoed, P.C. McMinn, J. Goldblatt, J.E. Gern, P.N. Le Souëf


A new and potentially more pathogenic group of human rhinoviruses (HRV), group C (HRVC) has recently been discovered. We hypothesised that HRVC would be present in children with acute asthma and cause more severe attacks than other viruses or HRV groups.

Children with acute asthma (n=128, 2–16 years) were recruited on presentation to an emergency department. Asthma exacerbation severity was assessed and respiratory viruses and HRV strains were identified in a nasal aspirate.

The majority of the children studied had moderate to severe asthma (85.2%) and 98.9% were admitted to hospital. HRV was detected in 87.5% and other respiratory viruses in 14.8% of children, most of whom also had HRV. HRVC were present in the majority of children with acute asthma (59.4%) and associated with more severe asthma. Children with HRVC (n=76) had higher asthma severity scores than children whose HRV infection was HRVA or HRVB only (n=34, p=0.018), and all other children (n=50, p=0.016). Of 19 children with a non-HRV virus, 13 had HRV co-infections, seven of these being HRVC.

HRVC accounts for the majority of asthma attacks in children presenting to hospital and causes more severe attacks than previously-known HRV groups and other viruses.