Objective Few comprehensive studies have searched for viruses in infants and young children with community-acquired pneumonia (CAP) in China. The aim of this study was to investigate the roles of human herpes viruses (HHVs) and other respiratory viruses in CAP not caused by typical bacterial infection and to determine their prevalence and clinical significance. Methods Induced sputum (IS) samples were collected from 354 hospitalised patients (infants, n = 205; children, n = 149) with respiratory illness (CAP or non-CAP) admitted to Wenling Hospital of China. We tested for HHVs and respiratory viruses using PCR-based assays. The epidemiological profiles were also analysed. Results High rate of virus detection (more than 98%) and co-infection (more than 80%) were found among IS samples from 354 hospitalised infants and children with respiratory illness in this study. Of 273 CAP samples tested, CMV (91.6%), HHV-6 (50.9%), RSV (37.4%), EBV (35.5%), HBoV (28.2%), HHV-7 (18.3%) and rhinovirus (17.2%) were the most commonly detected viruses. Of 81 non- CAP samples tested, CMV (63%), RSV (49.4%), HHV-6 (42%), EBV (24.7%), HHV-7 (13.6%) and HBoV (8.6%) were the dominant viruses detected. The prevalence of several viral agents (rhinovirus, bocavirus, adenovirus and CMV) among IS samples of CAP were significantly higher than that of non-CAP control group. We also found the prevalence of RSV coinfection with HHVs was also higher among CAP group than that of non-CAP control. Conclusions With sensitive molecular detection techniques and IS samples, high rates of viral identification were achieved in infants and young children with respiratory illness in a rural area of China. The clinical significance of rhinovirus, bocavirus, adenovirus and HHV (especially CMV) infections should receive greater attention in future treatment and prevention studies of CAP in infants and children.
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