Quantitative real-time PCR for the detection of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) RNA is increasingly used to study the causal role of RSV in lower airway disease. The objective of our study was to evaluate variations in RSV RNA loads at different steps in the RNA quantification process: (i) variation in RSV RNA load within one sample (step 1), (ii) variation in the load in samples from patients who were sampled twice on the same day (step 2), and (iii) variation in the load between simultaneously taken nasopharyngeal aspirate (NPA) samples and tracheal aspirate (TA) samples (step 3). Thirty-two infants with RSV infection at the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) were included. NPA and TA samples were taken three times a week during ventilation and were not diluted. Intrasample variation (step 1) was shown to be minimal (<0.5 log(10) particles/ml). Intraday variation (step 2) was the lowest for samples with high viral loads (95% limits of agreement, -1.3 to +0.9 log(10)), whereas it increased for samples with relatively lower viral loads (viral load, <6.0 log(10) particles/ml; n = 138 sample pairs from 20 patients). RSV loads in NPA and TA samples (step 3) were found to be the most comparable during the early phase of infection (95% limits of agreement, -1.5 to +1.4 log(10)). The variation increased during the late phase of infection (i.e., in follow-up samples), with the loads in NPA samples remaining significantly higher than the loads in TA samples (n = 138 sample pairs from 31 patients). In conclusion, quantitative detection of RSV RNA in undiluted mucus is a reliable method to quantify viral loads. Nasopharyngeal aspirate samples collected in the initial phase of infection can be used to predict RSV RNA loads in the lower airways.
- REAL-TIME PCR
- VIRAL LOAD