Respiratory Infections in the American Tropics

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  • Middle America Research Unit, National Institute of Allergy and Infections Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Balboa Heights, Canal Zone
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The occurrence of syndromes of respiratory illness that have been associated in the Temperate Zone with certain myxoviruses was determined among children admitted to the Gorgas Hospital, Panamá Canal Zone. Actual incidences could be calculated because the population eligible for hospitalization was known. The frequency of croup, bronchiolitis, and pneumonia was ranked: croup was the least frequent in occurrence and pneumonia the most frequent. The same order of ranking has been reported from Washington and Philadelphia in the studies that helped establish the relation of these syndromes to the myxoviruses.

Age-specific prevalence of neutralizing antibody for parainfluenza types 1, 2, and 3 and respiratory syncytial virus was determined in serum collected from persons native to the Tropics. Curves constructed from the data followed patterns similar to those reported from the Temperate Zone. Serum collected in six different areas of the American Tropics was tested by neutralization against five rhinovirus strains. Antibody was significantly less prevalent in serum from three areas that were isolated or at higher altitude than in blood specimens from three other areas. However, antibody was found to be present for each type studied in all areas. Since no major differences could be demonstrated between these results and those reported from the Temperate Zone, we believe that the behavior and distribution of respiratory-disease agents in the Tropics is generally similar.

Author Notes

Present address: Department of Epidemiology, School of Public Health, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48104.