BACKGROUND: The human parechoviruses (HPeV) have recently been recognized as important viral pathogens causing various illnesses including sepsis and meningitis in children. However, data from the United States is limited. OBJECTIVES: To better understand the epidemiology of HPeV in the United States and its role in pediatric disease through detection and typing of the virus in cerebrospinal fluid specimens. STUDY DESIGN: Four hundred and twenty-one spinal fluid samples collected from 373 patients ranging in age from 1 day to 18 years were tested using a real-time reverse transcription-PCR assay. The specimens were originally collected for routine viral and bacterial testing to assist in the diagnosis of meningitis or sepsis. Amplification products of the VP1 region in the virus genome were sequenced to identify the parechovirus type. RESULTS: Ten positive specimens were identified from 10 different patients. All ten samples were typed as HPeV3 and were negative for bacteria by culture, and for enterovirus and herpes simplex virus by PCR. All of the HPeV3-infected patients were young infants ranging in age from 6 to 59 days. Infants in whom HPeV3 was detected had significantly decreased peripheral white blood cell counts. Positive specimens were all from the summer and early fall. CONCLUSIONS: HPeV3 infection of the central nervous system is found in very young infants in certain years during the summer and early fall, and is associated with leukopenia. Real-time RT-PCR is an effective tool for rapid detection of these infections, and could help prevent unnecessary hospitalization and antibiotic use in HPeV infected infants. More widespread use of this tool in diagnosing HPeV infection would aid in further clarifying the prevalence of this disease in the United States.