Researchers from Vanderbilt University have discovered a new respiratory virus now thought to be the second leading cause of bronchiolitis in children. The virus is known as human metapneumovirus or MPV for short. Details of the study were published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

At least 10,000 children under the age of five were included in the study. Medical care was sought for the children via hospital or outpatient clinics between 2003 and 2009. Samples were tested for various viruses. MPV was found to affect more children over the age of one than respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) though researchers suspect few doctors realize the MPV virus is responsible for lower respiratory infections.

None of the children in the study died from MPV lower respiratory infections, but that is not always the case. According to researchers, lower respiratory infections are the second leading cause of death in children under the age of five. Though medical treatment is available, including bronchodilators, intravenous fluids and oxygen, not all children have access to health care to treat the condition in time.

Prior to 2001, MPV was not on the medical map. After the virus was discovered, treatment for other respiratory conditions was adopted as the best method of treatment. No specialized treatment has been developed for MPV to date.

Researchers believe additional research is needed to better understand the impact MPV has on child health. According to lead author Dr. Kathryn Edwards, “It is important to understand the burden of disease caused by human metapneumovirus so that we can work on vaccines to prevent them. We want to understand the enemy so that we can counteract it.”

Due to a large number of child deaths from respiratory illnesses like MPV in underdeveloped nations, researchers are hoping this study will spark additional research that may lead to a vaccine or tailored treatment.

Source: Vanderbilt University Medical Center Reporter

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