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Metapneumovirus - a common cause of adults' colds, kids' illness

virus by age 5. As with many respiratory viruses, such as the rhinoviruses and coronaviruses that cause many colds, the body does not remember the metapneumovirus clearly and so contracts it over and over, even though repeat bouts seem to be milder.

Now that scientists know what to look for, they can seek out the virus' genetic footprints in nasal secretions. This way, they are trying to assess how often -- and how severely -- it makes people sick through life.

In other studies:
? Researchers from McGill University looked at elderly patients hospitalized with pneumonia or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The metapneumovirus was found in 2 percent, which was the same as influenza A.

? A team from Hadassah University in Jerusalem looked for signs of metapneumovirus infection in children. They found that one-third had been infected by their first birthday, and half had it by age 2.

? Researchers from Oxford University tested children up to age 12 being seen for coughs and fever and found that 8 percent had metapneumovirus. In these youngsters, flu was the most common cause of illness.

Whether the metapneumovirus plays some role in SARS is also a matter of debate. The primary cause of SARS is a newly discovered coronavirus. However, a recent study from Hong Kong found that half of the SARS patients tested during last spring's outbreak were also infected with the metapneumovirus.


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