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ECHO virus
Virus classification
Group IV ((+)ssRNA)

An ECHO (enteric cytopathic human orphan) virus is a type of RNA virus that belongs to the species Enterovirus B, genus Enterovirus of the Picornaviridae family.[1] Echoviruses are found in the gastrointestinal tract (hence it being part of the enterovirus genus) and exposure to the virus causes other opportunistic infections and diseases, notably aseptic meningitis.[2]


The first isolation of echoviruses occurred from the faeces of asymptomatic children early in the 1950s, just after cell culturing had been developed. The echo– part of the name was originally an acronym for "enteric cytopathic human orphan" virus: Orphan virus means a virus that is not associated with any known disease. Even though Echoviruses have since been identified with various diseases, the original name is still used.[3]


Echovirus is highly infectious, and its primary target is children. The echovirus is among the leading causes of acute febrile illness in infants and young children, and is the most common cause of aseptic meningitis.[2] Infection of an infant with this virus following birth may cause severe systemic diseases, and is associated with high infant mortality rates. The echovirus can mimic symptoms caused by other common bacterial and viral infections.

Viral structure and infection[edit]

An echovirus measures 24–30 nanometres (nm) and has a naked protein capsid, which makes up 75% of the virus particle. The capsid encloses a dense central core of single-stranded RNA. This RNA has a length of approximately 7.5 kilobases (kb), contains an RNA replicase, viral-coded proteins, and a single polyprotein that is responsible for the formation of structural proteins and other proteins necessary for cellular replication. The structural proteins determine host range and play a very important role in delivering the RNA genome into the cytoplasm of new host cells.[2]

Some viral replication of an echovirus occurs in the nasopharynx after infection and then spreads to regional lymph nodes. However, most viral particles are swallowed and they reach the lower gut tract, where the virus is presumed to bind to specific receptors. The virus then spreads to the lower intestinal tract, replicating but not causing any major cellular effects along the way. Next, the virus spreads to many secondary sites in the body such as the central nervous system, liver, spleen, bone marrow, heart and finally the lungs. Additional replication of the virus will occur, causing symptoms 4 to 6 days after infection. The most deadly part however is delayed when symptoms of a central nervous system disease start to appear. Enteroviruses are capable of infecting any cell in the body. These viruses are highly infectious. They can spread through the air to other hosts 1–3 weeks after infection and can spread through feces to other hosts eight weeks after infection.

Symptoms and diagnosis[edit]

Echovirus disease occurs disproportionately in males and children. Infection within the first two weeks of birth can cause devastating and potentially fatal disease. In this population, death usually results from overwhelming liver failure or myocarditis, rather than infection of the central nervous system. Older children and adults have a better prognosis. Myocarditis is the most frequent complication in adults.

Echovirus, like the other Enteroviruses Coxsackievirus A and B, typically causes a mild, nonspecific illness with a low fever. Echovirus may also produce a rash that spreads from the face down to the neck, upper extremities, and chest. Laboratory diagnosis is made with acute and convalescent titers of serum antibodies to Echovirus.

Cause of infection[edit]

Causes of echovirus infections (Acute meningitis) can be placed in several categories. Main causes of infection are from overcrowded conditions such as the poor districts of a city and poor hygiene. Echoviruses are transmitted person-to-person; the fecal-oral route is the predominant mode, although transmission sometimes occurs via respiration of oral secretions such as saliva. Indirect transmission occurs through numerous routes, including via contaminated water, food, and fomites (inanimate objects). Contaminated swimming and wading pools can also transmit the virus. Also, there are well-documented reports of transmission via the contaminated hands of hospital personnel.


No specific treatment for echovirus infection is currently available. Care is directed at relief of symptoms. The anti-viral drug pleconaril interferes with the binding of the echovirus particle to the cell membrane and the drug also hinders the uncoating of virions by attaching itself to the viral protein capsid.[2]


  1. ^ Ryan KJ; Ray CG, eds. (2004). Sherris Medical Microbiology (4th ed.). McGraw Hill. pp. 537–9. ISBN 978-0-8385-8529-0.
  2. ^ a b c d Choudhary, Madhu Chhanda. Echovirus Infection. article/216564 at eMedicine. Updated: 11 September 2017; Retrieved 28 March 2018
  3. ^ Yin-Murphy M, Almond JW (1996). "Picornaviruses". In Baron S, et al. (eds.). Picornavirues. in: Baron's Medical Microbiology (4th ed.). Univ of Texas Medical Branch. ISBN 978-0-9631172-1-2.