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Enteroviruses belong to the Picornaviridae family and the Enterovirus genus. They are classified into several species, with human enterovirus species A, B, C, and D being the most notable. Each species contains multiple serotypes, contributing to the diversity of this viral family.
Enteroviruses are non-enveloped, single-stranded RNA viruses with a positive-sense genome. Their genome encodes a single polyprotein that is cleaved into structural and non-structural proteins. These proteins are essential for viral replication and host cell interactions. They are primarily transmitted through the fecal-oral route, respiratory secretions, or direct contact with infected individuals. They can cause a wide range of infections, from mild respiratory illnesses and gastrointestinal symptoms to severe diseases, including myocarditis, aseptic meningitis, and paralysis.
The clinical spectrum of enterovirus infections is broad. Common symptoms include fever, sore throat, and rash. Some strains can lead to more severe conditions, such as hand, foot, and mouth disease, which is typically caused by coxsackieviruses, or poliomyelitis, caused by polioviruses.
Laboratory diagnosis relies on molecular techniques, including reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) assays to detect viral RNA in clinical specimens. Serological tests can determine the presence of antibodies against specific enterovirus serotypes.