The Adenovirus Family


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This web page is a resource on the adenovirus family. The page includes information on adenovirus structure and function, associated disease, transmission, diagnosis, clinical course, prevention and treatment. In addition it addresses the use of adenovirus as a potential vector for gene therapy. I constructed this web page for a course at Stanford University called Humans and Viruses taught by Professor Robert Siegel. To find similar resource pages about other virus families, link below to the class home page.

Viral Structure and Function

Adenoviruses are double-stranded DNA viruses. They have icosahedral capsids with twelve vertices and seven surface proteins. The virion is non-enveloped, spherical and about seventy to ninety nm in size. The genome encodes about thirty proteins. Both strands of adenovirus DNA encode genes. Transcription occurs in three stages -- immediate early, early and late.

Adenovirus-Associated Human Disease

+ Pharyngitis
+ Acute Respiratory Disease
+ Pneumonia
+ Pharyngoconjunctival Fever
+ Epidemic Keratoconjuntivitis
+ Genitourinary Infections (cervicitis, urethritis, hemorrhagic cystitis)
+ Gasteroenteritis
+ Some asymptomatic and persistent infection
+ Adenovirus oncogenically tranforms rodent cells but not human cells.


+ Ingestion/Fecal-Oral Route
+ Respiration (through respiratory droplets)
+ Contact/Hand-to-eye transfer
+ Venereal

Clinical Course and Diagnosis

+ Incubation Period: 5 to 8 days
+ Adenovirus usually causes a localized infection, but generalized infection can occur in immuno-compromised patients.
+ Some adenovirus subtypes cause cellular cytopathic effect -- rounded, swollen cells and basophilic intranuclear inclusions.
+ Adenovirus is responsible for five percent of acute respiratory childhood illness and ten percent of infantile gasteroenteritis.
+ Meningoencephalatis is a complication of respiratory adenovirus infection.
+ Deaths may occur from adenovirus especially from infection by human adenovirus type 7.
+ Diagnosis occurs through enzyme immunoassay, immunofluorescence techniques and virus isolation in cell cultures.

Treatment and Therapy

Antivirals have generally been ineffective against adenovirus infection. Intravenous ribavirin is a potential treatment. Adenovirus infection results in long-lasting immunity against the specific serotype. Maternal antibody is protective.


+ Chlorination of swimming pools, drinking water, wastewater
+ High hygiene standards in opthamology practice
+ Hand-washing
+ Measures to prevent nosocomial transmission


The vaccine against adenovirus is live, oral and attenuated in the intestine. Mucosal and intestinal immunity result. Vaccines are administered to the military but not available for general use because of concern about the live vaccine's oncogenic potential and the level of attenuation achieved in children.

A Successful Vector for Vaccination and Gene Therapy

Adenoviruses have immense potential as vectors for vaccination and for gene therapy because adenoviruses can be genetically altered in vitro to:

(1) code for specific proteins
(2) not produce infectious, pathogenic viral offspring.

+ Vaccination:
A DNA segment that codes for an antigen that stimulates an immune response in humans can be inserted into the genome of adenovirus and then inserted into a host. Hepatitis B, HIV, herpes simplex, rabies and respiratory synctial virus regions can be inserted into adenovirus DNA.

+ Gene Therapy:
A DNA segment that codes for an enzyme or protein product that corrects a human genetic defect can be delivered to the host by an adenovirus vector. For example, a normal copy of the defective gene in cystic fibrosis patients can be inserted into patients through an adenovirus vector.

Link Here for Detailed Information on Adenovirus Gene Therapy


Useful Web Links

Dr. DM Sander's Page on Adenovirus

Cystic Fibrosis Gene Therapy Trial Based on Adenovirus Vector

Diagnosis of Adenovirus

Humans and Viruses, Winter'98

Professor Robert Siegel's Home Page


Textbook References

Fields. Virology, 3rd edition. . Lippincott-Raven: Philadelphia, 1996. pp.2111-2171.

White and Fenner. Medical Virology, 4th edition. Academic Press: San Diego, 1994. pp.306-315.


Journal References

Wigland, et. al. "Adenoviridae: Second Report." Interviriology. Vol.18. 1982. pp.169-176.

Yang, Yiping, et. al. "Inactivation of E2a in Recombinant Adenoviruses Improves the Prospect for Gene Therapy in Cystic Fibrosis." Nature Genetics. Vol.7. July, 1994. pp. 362-369.


Created by:

Sreyashi Jhumki Basu, Senior, Stanford University
Program in Human Biology

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Last modified: March 7, 1998