Parainfluenza Viruses

Parainfluenza viruses were first discovered in the late 1950s, when three different viruses recovered from children with lower respiratory disease proved to be unique and easily separated from the influenza viruses they closely resembled. This new family of respiratory viruses shared a few antigenic sites with influenza virus. When in 1959 a fourth virus was found that also met these criteria, a new taxonomic group was created called 'parainfluenza viruses'.
[An already antiquated scheme]
Some of these viruses are major causes of lower respiratory infections in infants, young children, the immunocompromised, the chronically ill and the elderly. The majority of their structural and biological charactertistics are similar, but they each have adapted to infect humans at different ages and cause different diseases[1].

Recently discovered members of the the parainfluenza viruses, the Hendra virus and the Nipah virus are particularly harmful to horses. Others cause illness in other species, like Canine distemper virus (dogs), rinderpest virus (cattle), pest-des-petits-ruminants virus (goats and sheep), dolphine distemper virus (dolphins), porpoise distemper virus (porpoises), phocine distemper virus (seals), Bovine Parainfluenza virus (cattle) and Porcine Parainfluenza virus (pigs).

[1] Henrickson: Parainfluenza Viruses in Clinical Microbiology Reviews - 2003

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