The common cold can be deadly for patients recovering from bone marrow transplants, a new study warns.
After a bone marrow transplant, patients have weakened immune systems. This puts them at risk for infections that aren’t a major threat to healthy people. But until now, the common cold (rhinovirus) had been overlooked in these patients, according to Dr. Michael Boeckh. He is an infectious disease specialist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle.
“This is such a prevalent virus . . . about 25 percent of stem cell transplant patients get infected [with rhinovirus] during the first year,” he said in a center news release.
“The virus was always considered kind of a common cold, a mild virus. People shrugged their shoulders, what should we do about it, it comes and goes,” Boeckh said.
The researchers looked at information from nearly 700 patients who received bone marrow transplants at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance. The transplants took place between 1993 and 2015.
The study showed that rhinovirus can cause pneumonia, but it does so less often than other viruses. However, when it does cause pneumonia in bone marrow transplant patients, it was just as deadly as other viruses.
The findings highlight the need for strong infection-prevention measures for bone marrow transplant patients and better care for those with rhinovirus-related pneumonia, Boeckh said.
One of Boeckh’s colleagues is beginning a new research program to try to better understand the virus and figure out why it can be so deadly.
The study was published recently in the journal Haematologica.
The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has more on bone marrow transplant.