Molecular Epidemiology of Human Rhinovirus From 1-Year Surveillance Within a School Setting in Rural Coastal Kenya

Luka MM, Kamau E, Adema I, Munywoki PK, Otieno GP, Gicheru E, Gichuki A, Kibinge N, Agoti CN, Nokes DJ
Open Forum Infect Dis. 2020;7

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BACKGROUND: Human rhinovirus (HRV) is the most common cause of the common cold but may also lead to more severe respiratory illness in vulnerable populations. The epidemiology and genetic diversity of HRV within a school setting have not been previously described. The objective of this study was to characterize HRV molecular epidemiology in a primary school in a rural location of Kenya. METHODS: Between May 2017 and April 2018, over 3 school terms, we collected 1859 nasopharyngeal swabs (NPS) from pupils and teachers with symptoms of acute respiratory infection in a public primary school in Kilifi County, coastal Kenya. The samples were tested for HRV using real-time reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction. HRV-positive samples were sequenced in the VP4/VP2 coding region for species and genotype classification. RESULTS: A total of 307 NPS (16.4%) from 164 individuals were HRV positive, and 253 (82.4%) were successfully sequenced. The proportion of HRV in the lower primary classes was higher (19.8%) than upper primary classes (12.2%; P < .001). HRV-A was the most common species (134/253; 53.0%), followed by HRV-C (73/253; 28.9%) and HRV-B (46/253; 18.2%). Phylogenetic analysis identified 47 HRV genotypes. The most common genotypes were A2 and B70. Numerous (up to 22 in 1 school term) genotypes circulated simultaneously, there was no individual re-infection with the same genotype, and no genotype was detected in all 3 school terms. CONCLUSIONS: HRV was frequently detected among school-going children with mild acute respiratory illness symptoms, particularly in the younger age groups (<5-year-olds). Multiple HRV introductions were observed that were characterized by considerable genotype diversity.