Bocavirus Infection

  • Medical Author:
    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.

  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

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How is bocavirus infection spread?

Because bocavirus is a newly detected virus, many basic studies are still being planned or are ongoing. Consequently, conclusions about how the virus is spread are based on suppositions that are supported by some scientific findings, but not yet proved by scientific tests. Since the virus can be detected in high numbers in the respiratory tract and in respiratory secretions of some hospitalized patients, investigators suggest that bocavirus is mainly spread to other humans by respiratory secretions. However, it can also be found in stools (diarrhea) and in blood, so these may be alternative ways for the virus to spread. Unfortunately, to date, there are no animal or viral cell culture systems to investigate bocavirus strains. It is clear, however, that from the few epidemiological studies done that bocavirus can be found worldwide in about 1.5%-19% of the population, usually in sick children.

How is bocavirus infection diagnosed?

Most investigators agree that bocavirus "infection" is a diagnosis by association as the virus has not yet proven to be definitively responsible for a disease state. There are no commercially available tests for any bocavirus strains. Researchers, however, use a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) to detect virus in nasopharyngeal aspirates (NPA) and samples of blood and diarrhea. These PCR tests detect the genetic material of the viruses, but the PCR tests are not widely available. Many researchers use the terms "detected bocavirus" or "associated with" instead of "definitively diagnosed with bocavirus infection" when they discuss the patients with symptoms described above. However stated, many investigators who work with these ill children clearly suspect bocavirus is playing some role in the disease process.

What is the treatment for bocavirus infection?

There is no treatment, medical or antiviral, that is known to effectively target bocavirus strains. A few investigators suggest that since there is no definitive evidence that bocavirus causes infection or disease, either alone or in combination with other viruses, there should be no treatment directed toward bocavirus. Other investigators believe that since bocavirus strains are usually associated with patients with respiratory or gastrointestinal symptoms, treatments should be considered. Currently, the only available treatments (for example, oxygen, respiratory support, and hydration) are for the relief of symptoms since no specific anti-bocavirus treatments are available.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 6/10/2015
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