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Members of the family Adenoviridae comprise over 50 different serotypes of human adenoviruses as well as numerous serotypes from other mammals, birds, reptiles and fish. The first adenovirus was discovered in 1953 in cultures of human adenoids[1]. The virions consist of a ~26-40 kb linear dsDNA genome encased within a non-enveloped icosahedral protein coat.

They have a well known role in the common cold and a wide range of respiratory (although rarely implicated in childhood pneumonia[2]), ocular, gastrointestinal(a common cause of viral gastroenteritis in some communities[3]), and especially in the immune compromised, disseminated disease. Serotypes such as adenovrus 12 are associated with autoimmune conditions like coeliac disease[4] and type 1 diabetes[5]. It is known that maximum human latent infection levels of some serotypes in tonsilar mucosa lymphocytes is at age 4 and it is believed that stimulation of these cells can cause viral reactivation resulting in RNA transcription, DNA replication, and infectious virus production much later ensuring long term viral circulation in their host species[6].

Also they are at the forefront of gene therapy having been discovered to express transgenes when SV40 T antigen was discovered to be expressed even after the contaminating simian virus 40 had been eliminated from vaccine cell lines[7].

Vaccination has proved problematical because of the diversity of serotypes but work continues on developing ways to identify classes of cytotoxic T-cells that can be used in immunotherapy prior to bone marrow transplant or other immunosuppression that might be complicated by adenovirus reactivation. T-cells can recognise antigens such as hexon, a capsid protein synthesized late after infection, adenoviral DNA polymerase and DNA-binding protein.


  1. ROWE WP, HUEBNER RJ, GILMORE LK, PARROTT RH, WARD TG. Isolation of a cytopathogenic agent from human adenoids undergoing spontaneous degeneration in tissue culture. Proceedings of the Society for Experimental Biology and Medicine. Society for Experimental Biology and Medicine (New York, N.Y.). 1953 Dec; 84(3):570-3.
  2. Hamano-Hasegawa K, Morozumi M, Nakayama E, Chiba N, Murayama SY, Takayanagi R, Iwata S, Sunakawa K, Ubukata K. Comprehensive detection of causative pathogens using real-time PCR to diagnose pediatric community-acquired pneumonia. Journal of infection and chemotherapy : official journal of the Japan Society of Chemotherapy. 2008 Dec; 14(6):424-432.(Link to article – subscription may be required.)
  3. Cruz JR, Cáceres P, Cano F, Flores J, Bartlett A, Torún B. Adenovirus types 40 and 41 and rotaviruses associated with diarrhea in children from Guatemala. Journal of clinical microbiology. 1990 Aug; 28(8):1780-4.
  4. Plot L, Amital H. Infectious associations of Celiac disease. Autoimmunity reviews. 2008 Oct 28.(Epub ahead of print) (Link to article – subscription may be required.)
  5. Mäkelä M, Vaarala O, Hermann R, Salminen K, Vahlberg T, Veijola R, Hyöty H, Knip M, Simell O, Ilonen J. Enteral virus infections in early childhood and an enhanced type 1 diabetes-associated antibody response to dietary insulin. Journal of autoimmunity. 2006 Aug; 27(1):54-61.(Link to article – subscription may be required.)
  6. Garnett CT, Talekar G, Mahr JA, Huang W, Zhang Y, Ornelles DA, Gooding LR. Latent species C adenoviruses in human tonsil tissues. Journal of virology. 2008 Dec 24.(Epub ahead of print) (Link to article – subscription may be required.)
  7. Roy-Chowdhury J, Horwitz MS. Evolution of adenoviruses as gene therapy vectors. Molecular therapy : the journal of the American Society of Gene Therapy. 2002 Apr; 5(4):340-4.(Link to article – subscription may be required.)


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