Nasopharyngeal secretions and cough/nasal swabs were taken from 111 children admitted to hospital in Newcastle upon Tyne with acute lower respiratory disease. A comparison was made between nasopharyngeal secretions and cough/nasal swabs as material for isolation of viruses in tissue culture. These results were, in turn, compared with those obtained by applying a fluorescent antibody technique to the exfoliated cells in the nasopharyngeal secretions for the rapid diagnosis of respiratory syncytial virus infection.
More viruses were isolated in tissue culture from nasopharyngeal secretion than from cough/nasal swabs. Further evidence for the superiority of nasopharyngeal secretions was obtained by comparing the virus isolations in the laboratory in 1967 with those in 1968. Respiratory syncytial virus was not only isolated more often but more quickly in tissue culture inoculated with nasopharyngeal secretions.
The fluorescent antibody technique not only provided a diagnosis on the patient's day of admission in 95% of those infected with respiratory syncytial virus but also proved to be as sensitive as the culture of nasopharyngeal secretions and considerably more sensitive than the culture of cough/nasal swabs for the diagnosis of respiratory syncytial virus infection.
We wish to acknowledge the invaluable help given us by consultants, medical officers, ward sisters and their staff in the paediatric wards of the Child Health Department. We also wish to thank the technical staff in the Department of Virology for their aid.