Rapid Respiratory Virus Culture

Rapid Respiratory Virus Culture
(Test name: Respir. Virus Cult, Rapid/Reflex ID)
By Xiaotian Zheng, PhD, DLS Microbiology Director, February 2001


Respiratory viruses are important pathogens causing infections in both adults and children. With more antiviral drugs available, the early and rapid laboratory detection of these pathogens may have a significant impact on patient management, as well as epidemiology. Conventional virus culture methods rely on examining cytopathic effects and hemadsorption of cell culture. A test report generated by using this method requires many days or weeks and may not be useful for clinicians.

A rapid culturing method is available in our laboratory for the detection of 7 respiratory viruses; these are adenovirus, influenza A and B, parainfluenza types 1, 2, and 3, and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). This method uses immunofluoresence detection and identification of viral antigens in centrifugation-enhanced shell vial cultures. With the highly sensitive and specific monoclonal antibody staining technique, the test report turn-around-time is reduced to 72 hours (with negative results reported at 48 hours) from the time specimens are processed. Our validation data showed that the rapid virus culture has good correlation with the conventional virus culture method.


Specimens accepted for this test are respiratory specimens (nasopharyngeal swabs, aspirates, or wash; throat swabs; bronchoalveolar lavage, and respiratory secretions).


  1. This test is to be used for samples from respiratory sources only.
  2. Swabs with a wooden shaft are unacceptable; the swab that comes with the M4 viral transport medium has a plastic shaft.
  3. Swabs should be in viral transport medium (contact DLS to obtain). For aspirates, washes, and other secretions, M4 is the preferred method of transport; a sterile container will be accepted in the absence of M4 medium. Keep all samples at 2-8° C and transport to the laboratory as soon as possible.

Laboratory contact:

  • Dr. Xiaotian Zheng, Phone: (808) 589-5237
  • Dr. Wesley Kim, Phone: (808) 589-5131


  1. Fong, C.K., M.K. Lee, and B.P. Griffith. 2000. Evaluation of R-Mix FreshCells in shell vials for detection of respiratory viruses. J. Clin. Microbiol. 38:4660-4662.
  2. Huang, Y.T., and B.M. Turchek. 2000. Mink lung cells and mixed mink lung and A549 cells for rapid detection of influenza virus and other respiratory viruses.
  3. J. Clin. Microbiol. 38:422-423.