Which clinical history findings are characteristic of adenovirus-related gastroenteritis?

Updated: Apr 15, 2021
  • Author: Sandra G Gompf, MD, FACP, FIDSA; Chief Editor: Michael Stuart Bronze, MD  more...
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Enteric adenovirus infection is a common cause of infantile diarrhea in the daycare setting, but less common than rotavirus infection and, in some settings, less common than infection with astroviruses.In one study of over 400 cases of acute infantile gastroenteritis, enteric adenoviruses were the sole recognizable cause of diarrhea in 7.2 percent of cases; no isolates were found among 200 controls. Diarrhea was prolonged, lasting from 8 to 12 days.  [22]

It can also affect adults; in addition, a nosocomial outbreak in a hematology unit has been reported. [23]  Adenoviruses replicate readily in the human intestine and may be cultured from asymptomatic individuals; thus, their presence in the setting of a diarrheal syndrome may be incidental.

Many serotypes are fastidious in culture. Serotypes 40 and 41 had been termed "noncultivatable." However, they have been cultured in the setting of diarrheal syndromes using newer cell lines. Monoclonal antibody assays, enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay, and electron microscopy support the association of these strains with enteric disease. However, one cannot assume that enteric disease is limited to these strains. In fact, various serotypes of adenovirus have been associated with infectious diarrheal syndromes in recipients of hematopoietic stem cell transplants.

Fever and watery diarrhea are usually limited to 1-2 weeks.

Mesenteric adenitis and intussusception have been associated with nonenteric adenovirus serotypes (ie, types 1, 2, 3, 5, 6). Approximately 40% of infants with intussusception have positive findings from cultures of stool or mesenteric lymph nodes for nonenteric serotypes, and most have no evidence of infection with enteric strains (ie, 40, 41). The role of adenovirus in this setting is unclear. Mesenteric lymphadenitis or hyperirritable small bowel associated with nonenteric adenoviral infection has been postulated to lead to intussusception. However, most patients with intussusception have no evidence of adenoviral infection (based on culture, serology, or histopathologic viral inclusion findings); thus, intussusception may be related to multiple etiologies.

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