Molecular epidemiology and genetic diversity of human rhinovirus affecting hospitalized children in Rome

Alessandra Pierangeli, Massimo Ciccozzi, Stefano Chiavelli, Carlo Concato, Marta Giovanetti, Eleonora Cella, Lucia Spano, Carolina Scagnolari, Corrado Moretti, Paola Papoff, Maurizio Muraca, Fabio Midulla, Guido Antonelli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Human rhinoviruses (HRV) have been re-classified into three species (A-C), but the recently discovered HRV-C strains are not fully characterized yet. This study aimed to undertake a molecular and epidemiological characterization of HRV strains infecting children hospitalized over one year in two large research hospitals in Rome. Nasal washings from single HRV infections were retrospectively subjected to phylogenetic analysis on two genomic regions: the central part of the 5′Untranslated Region (5′UTR) and the Viral Protein (VP) 4 gene with the 5′ portion of the VP2 gene (VP4/2). Forty-five different strains were identified in 73 HRV-positive children: 55 % of the cases were HRV-A, 38 % HRV-C and only 7 % HRV-B. HRV-C cases were less frequent than HRV-A during summer months and more frequent in cases presenting wheezing with respect to HRV-A. Species distribution was similar with respect to patient age, and seasonality differed during summer months with fewer HRV-C than HRV-A cases. On admission, a significantly higher number of HRV-C cases presented with wheezing with respect to HRV-A. The inter- and intra-genotype variability in VP4/2 was higher than in 5′UTR; in particular, HRV-A patient VP4/2 sequences were highly divergent (8-14 %) at the nucleotide level from those of their reference strains, but VP4 amino acid sequence was highly conserved. In HRV-C isolates, the region preceding the initiator AUG, the amino acids involved in VP4 myristoylation, the VP4-VP2 cleavage site and the cis-acting replication element were highly conserved. Differently, VP4 amino acid conservation was significantly lower in HRV-C than in HRV-A strains, especially in the transiently exposed VP4 N-terminus. This study confirmed the high number of different HRV genotypes infecting hospitalized children over one year and reveals a greater than expected variability in HRV-C VP4 protein, potentially suggestive of differences in replication.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)303-311
Number of pages9
JournalMedical Microbiology and Immunology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2013


  • Capsid protein
  • Genotyping
  • Phylogeny
  • Rhinovirus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Microbiology (medical)
  • Immunology


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