Surely you have met the rhinovirus. Sooner or later everyone suffers the irritating indignities of it. It’s the name of the virus in charge of bringing you the garden-variety, ordinary, common cold.
You endure it, and you know it will end shortly. You know there is no cure. You also know your body will beat the sneezing, stuffed up, feverish misery and life will be normal again–unless you are a transplant patient. Many studies have proven that transplant patients can fall prey to infections that would not bother a normal person.
However, until recently, research has ignored the typical common cold virus, the rhinovirus, in its studies of deadly pneumonia in transplant patients.
Rhinovirus and Remarkable Discoveries
Dr. Sachiko Seo, Dr. Michael Boeckh of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, and their associates have changed that oversight forever with their new research.
Dr. Sachiko , Dr. Boeckh, and associates have published a new study. Dr. Sachiko, leader of the study, and infectious disease specialist, was formerly with the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, and is now a physician at the National Cancer Research Center East in Chiba, Japan. In the Journal Haematologica, they revealed a new, grudging respect for the common cold virus, the rhinovirus.
To put it simply, they have found that this common virus,”just like the more serious viruses,” can cause pneumonia and death in patients who are recovering from lung transplants.
Read the details of their amazing work below, and find out why these scientists have intensified their crusade to find a cure for the common cold.
Stalking the Rhinovirus: A Decade of Watching Infections in Lung Transplant Patients
In ten years of previous research, these doctors and their colleagues in other studies have seen evidence of rhinovirus in transplant patients with deadly pneumonia. But they could not scientifically prove if the rhinovirus was guilty of causing the pneumonia, or just co-existing with it. Dr. Boeckh and Dr. Seo’s new study has definitively proven that the seemingly harmless rhinovirus can be responsible for the pneumonia that plagues–and sometimes–kills lung transplant patients.
One reason science has avoided the study of this virus is that it is not exotic or dramatic. After all, it only causes a cold in healthy people. Lung transplant patients, however, provide a different story; we now know they are very vulnerable to the virus. Yet another reason the lowly Rhinovirus did not seem to merit much research is that it can play hide and seek and be very difficult to trace. However, previous researchers have not enjoyed the advantage of new technology in viral detection. The new technology allowed the Seo and Boeckh team to meticulously trace the Rhinovirus in the lungs of transplant patients.
Rhinovirus In Transplant Patients: The Project
The Background: Let’s take a brief look at the significant research created by these intrepid scientists who studied 697 patients in this project.
A. The patients involved in the research received transplants at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, from the years 1993 to 2015.
B. The patients also tested positive for rhinovirus.
The Procedure: Then they compared the progress of the 128 patients who suffered with rhinovirus in the lower respiratory tract, with the patients who were infected with viruses “already known to cause pneumonia — and sometimes death — in transplant patients…”
These viruses are a decidedly more exotic group than the common rhinovirus. Such viruses include influenza; parainfluenza virus, or PIV and respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV.
But the doctors pursued the rhinovirus in the transplant patients, intent on finding out how dangerous it was in comparison to deadly PIV and RSV.
The Results: A Surprising Villain
1. Boeckh and his colleagues found that about 15 percent of patients had an upper respiratory tract infection, the rhinovirus. This is the type of infection we typically think of as a “common cold.” Sadly, the lung went on to develop pneumonia, or an infection of the lower respiratory tract.
2. This was less dramatic than the 30% who contracted pneumonia from RSV, but still extremely significant.
3. In spite of the mild reputation of the virus, they stated, “But once patients developed pneumonia, rhinovirus turned out to be just as deadly as the other viruses.”
4. About 40% of the researched patients who developed pneumonia from any viral infection died.
5. But it is important to note that the scientists saw critical illness and death result in patients that had no other co-existing infections, except Rhinovirus.
6.Now they believe that for lung transplant patients, “the so-called mild virus can be dangerous all on its own.”
The Rhinovirus and Lung Transplant Patients: A New Advocacy
The Scientists now have several missions based on their findings. Because of this study, we now see obvious reasons for a strong protocol of infection prevention measures.
Likewise, now we know transplant patients with rhinovirus-related pneumonia require better care once they have contracted the “light” infection. For example, healthcare givers with colds must not work near these patients. It isn’t a trivial matter,. It’s a matter of life and death.
Furthermore , the study team wants to see hospitals and cancer centers utilize more than an ounce of prevention!
The results of the study provide, in Dr. Boeckh’s words, a “rationale for drug companies and researchers to prioritize developing effective antiviral drugs for this most common of common cold-causing viruses.” Thus, he and many others are crusading vigorously for an antiviral medication that will protect the lives of lung transplant patients.
Ultimate Rhinovirus Results:
The motivation for more research and the demand for a new and effective treatment for rhinovirus infections comes from the 40% Death Rate in cases of transplant patients who contracted pneumonia due to any respiratory virus.
The Rhinovirus rears up like a common, constant threat. Dr. Boeckh pointed out the danger, saying, “the virus is so common and because it’s present year-round, unlike the other, more seasonal viruses.” Then he added, “This is an important pathogen,” he said. “It can’t be disregarded as a common cold virus.”
Curing the Rhinovirus Sniffles: A Key To Saving Lung Transplant Patients’ Lives
If we can understand the Rhinovirus, and find a drug to cure the Rhinovirus sniffles, we can save the lives of quite a few more of our Lung Transplant Patients. Florida Lung, Asthma and Sleep Specialists join these researchers in the crusading hope that more studies will be done to motivate the development of such a drug. In the future, no lung transplant patient should have to die from a common cold.