Adenovirus 14 Infection (Killer Cold Virus)

  • 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: Mary D. Nettleman, MD, MS, MACP
    Mary D. Nettleman, MD, MS, MACP

    Mary D. Nettleman, MD, MS, MACP

    Mary D. Nettleman, MD, MS, MACP is the Chair of the Department of Medicine at Michigan State University. She is a graduate of Vanderbilt Medical School, and completed her residency in Internal Medicine and a fellowship in Infectious Diseases at Indiana University.

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What causes an infection with Adenovirus 14 (Ad14)?

Usually, an individual becomes infected with Ad14 through person-to-person exposure via droplets containing Ad14 expelled by an infected person who coughs or sneezes. When these droplets reach the eyes, nose, or mouth, the Ad14 virus can attach and infect cells. These infected sites allow the virus to proliferate in some patients, and the virus then may go on to infect other organ systems, especially the lungs. Ad14 also can be passed through direct hand-to-hand contact if an infected patient has not washed their hands after coughing or sneezing. Adenoviruses can survive for days on objects like doorknobs, hand rails, and other objects. If a non-infected person touches the contaminated item, they can pick up the virus and then transfer it to a site (mouth, nose, eyes) where the virus can infect cells and proliferate.

How is an Adenovirus 14 infection diagnosed?

Diagnosis begins with a complete medical history and physical exam, especially noting if the patient has been associated with any group of people that has similar symptoms. Ad14 is one of several possible causative agents for an outbreak of respiratory problems in members of a group, like military recruits. To provide a definitive diagnosis of Ad14, blood, tissue, and/or exudates can be specifically cultured for the virus. Rising serum titers of antibodies toAd14, immunofluorescence tests for virus antigens in tissues, and a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) are also considered tests that provide a definitive diagnosis. However, in the vast majority of infected patients, such specific testing is not done and is not clinically necessary. It does not alter the management of the infected person. Electron microscopy shows the virus structure (Figure 1) but does not identify the strain. Supportive tests may include chest X-rays and blood tests and others that the physician deems appropriate.

Picture of colorized transmission electron micrograph of adenovirus
Figure 1: Picture of colorized transmission electron micrograph of adenovirus; SOURCE: CDC/Dr. G. William Gary, Jr.

For further information on Adenovirus structure, see http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK8174/.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 3/8/2016
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