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Enteroviruses are positive-sense RNA viruses in the Picornaviridae family. These viruses were initially classified by serotype as polioviruses (3 types), echoviruses (31 types, including types 22 and 23, which are now classified as parechoviruses), coxsackievirus A (23 types), and coxsackievirus B (6 types). However, genomic studies have demonstrated that there is significant overlap in the biological characteristics of different serotypes and, more recently, isolated enteroviruses are now named with consecutive numbers (eg, EV68, EV69).
The normal site of enterovirus replication is the gastrointestinal tract where the infection is typically subclinical. However, in a proportion of cases, the virus spreads to other organs, causing systemic manifestations, including mild respiratory disease (eg, common cold); conjunctivitis; hand, foot, and mouth disease; aseptic meningitis; myocarditis; and acute flaccid paralysis. Collectively, enteroviruses are the most common cause of upper respiratory tract disease in children. In addition, the enteroviruses are the most common cause of central nervous system (CNS) disease; they account for almost all viruses recovered in culture from spinal fluid. Differentiation of enteroviruses from other viruses and bacteria that cause CNS disease is important for the appropriate medical management of these patients.
Traditional cell culture methods require 6 days, on average, for enterovirus detection. In comparison, real-time PCR allows same-day detection. Detection of enterovirus nucleic acid by PCR is also the most sensitive diagnostic method for the diagnosis of CNS infection caused by these viruses.
Aids in diagnosing enterovirus infections
A positive result indicates the presence of enterovirus RNA in the specimen.
A negative result does not rule out the possibility of enterovirus infection. This assay may detect virus from a variety of specimen types in asymptomatic individuals. This assay should only be used for patients with a clinical history and symptoms consistent with enterovirus infection, and must be interpreted in the context of the clinical picture. This test should not be used to screen asymptomatic patients.
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