The findings are described of a combined clinical, bacteriological and virological study which included all children admitted to the City Hospital, Edinburgh, with acute respiratory infection and whooping cough during the winters 1961–62 and 1962–63. During the first winter 131 cases aged 0–12 years and in the second winter 133 aged 0–6 years were examined. The respiratory illnesses were divisible into upper respiratory tract infection, bronchitis, pneumonia, and whooping cough; many of the cases of whooping cough had respiratory complications with bronchitis or pneumonia.
Paired sera, a throat swab and a faecal specimen were taken from each child and investigated vircdogically. Over both winters the highest total virus isolation rate was found in the group suffering from upper respiratory disease. Approximately two-thirds of the total number of patients from whom virus was isolated and from whom both acute and convalescent sera were available gave a serological response to the homologous virus; the highest proportion of these patients occurred in the pneumonia and URTI groups. The groups of viruses associated with a fourfold or greater rise in antibodies occurred in the following proportions of the cases: myxovirus 9 %; adeno virus 7 %; entero virus 4 %; herpes simplex 3 %.
Bacterial pathogens were isolated from 37 % of patients in 1961–62 and from 49 % in 1962–63, Staph. pyogenes being the most common pathogen. Isolation of pneumococci was facilitated during the second year by the examination of a nasal swab. Pre-admission chemotherapy did not significantly alter the bacterial isolation rates. Agglutination studies were carried out on forty clinical cases of whooping cough admitted during the two winters and thirty-two showed significant stable titres to Bordetella pertussis; only 9 (18 %) of these cases gave a history of prophylactic immunization.
A third of the patients had neither bacterial nor viral pathogens.
The findings in this survey illustrate the need for further intensive virological and bacteriological studies of acute respiratory infections in early childhood.