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Human Adenoviruses are a large group of DNA viruses that were first isolated from an adenoid gland in 1953.1 There are over 50 different serotypes.2 Adenovirus infections are often asymptomatic, but can cause a wide range of illnesses and symptoms such as: 2

  • Colds
  • Sore throat (pharyngitis)
  • Bronchitis
  • Pneumonia
  • Gastroenteritis and diarrhea
  • Pink eye (conjunctivitis)
  • Bladder inflammation or infection (cystitis)
  • Inflammation of stomach and intestines (gastroenteritis)
  • Neurologic disease (meningitis and encephalitis)

Adenoviruses rarely cause serious illness or death.3 Although anyone can get infected with adenoviruses, infants and individuals with weakened immune systems or chronic respiratory or cardiac disease are at higher risk of getting seriously ill from an adenovirus infection.2,3


Infection with adenoviruses occurs following close contact with people who are infected these viruses or by touching surfaces or objects that have adenoviruses on them and then touching your mouth, nose, or eyes. Outbreaks of conjunctivitis caused by certain serotypes of adenoviruses have been traced to inadequately chlorinated swimming pools or contaminated ophthalmic medications.2


Adenoviruses can cause respiratory illness in military recruits and a vaccine against adenovirus types 4 and 7 is available for U.S. military personnel, but is not available to the general public.2   Prevention of adenovirus infection requires careful attention to hygienic measures including:

  • Washing hands often with soap and water
  • Covering the mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing
  • Not touching eyes, nose, or mouth
  • Avoiding close contact with people who are sick
  • Staying home when ill


Adenovirus infections were traditionally diagnosed by cell culture because adenoviruses replicate efficiently in cell culture. Monoclonal antibodies are also used to detect infected cells using direct fluorescence antibody assays. Polymerase chain reaction methods that amplify and detect adenovirus DNA are becoming a commonly used laboratory method to confirm infection with an adenovirus.2


There is no specific therapy for adenoviruses. Serious adenovirus infections are managed by treating symptoms and complications of the infection.2 In some cases, cidofovir (a nucleotide analog) has been used to treat severe adenovirus infections in people with immunocompromised systems.2


1 Versalovic, James; Carrol, Karen C.; Guido, Funke; Jorgensen, James H.; Landry, Marrie Louise; Knipe, David M.; Howley, Peter M.; Griffin, Diane; Warnock, David W. (2001). Manual of Clinical Microbiology, 10th ed. Washington, D.C.: ASM Press. p. 1600.

2 http://www.cdc.gov/adenovirus/

3 Lion T.  Adenovirus infections in immunocompetent and immunocompromised patient. Clin Microbiol Rev. 2014 Jul;27(3):441-62.