Adenovirus infections are most commonly diagnosed based on the symptoms of the condition.
Symptoms of adenovirus infection
The infection commonly manifests as an airway infection or an intestinal infection.
For an airway infection it takes around 2 to 14 days for the symptoms to appear after exposure to the virus. This is called the incubation period. For intestinal infections the incubation period is 3 to10 days.
Symptoms of an airway infection include:-
redness and inflammation of the conjunctiva of the eyes (pink eyes)
croup or noisy breathing
Some infections may also lead to skin rash, diarrhea and bladder infections.
The illness commonly does not last beyond three to five days and may last a week. Serious infections may debilitate a person for a couple of weeks.
Common but serious complications include lung infection or pneumonia, middle ear infection or otitis media and brain infections or meningitis.
Laboratory diagnosis of adenovirus
Laboratory diagnosis is available for detection of adenovirus. These are particularly useful for detecting and preventing large outbreaks.
Some of the laboratory diagnostic techniques include:-
The adenovirus, like other viruses, contains numerous proteins on its surface. Within the body these act as antigens against which several antibodies are formed. This helps the body to fight off an adenovirus infection. For example, the core of the particle contains at least 4 proteins called the TP (Terminal Protein), V, VII and Mu, a small protein.
Polymerase chain reaction assay
These can be used to identify the viral nuclear material or the viral DNA. Adenovirus has a double stranded linear DNA genome of length 36-40 kilo basepairs (kbp).
The intact adenovirus particles may be isolated from samples of mucous, stool, blood and urine of an infected person. Once isolated the virus is usually types into subgroups and types. Virus isolation may also require virus cell cultures. Adenovirus typing is usually done by hemagglutination-inhibition and neutralization with type-specific antisera or by molecular methods.
These tests utilize measures to assess the levels of the antibodies that have been generated against an active infection with adenovirus.
Reviewed by April Cashin-Garbutt, BA Hons (Cantab)