BACKGROUND: Acute respiratory infections (ARI) are the major worldwide health problem associated with high morbidity and mortality rates. Human adenovirus (HAdV) is one of the most common pathogens associated with viral ARI, and thus calls for specific diagnosis and better understanding of the epidemiology and clinical characteristics. METHODS: Total 4,130 children with ARI requiring hospitalization from 2012 to 2013 were retrospectively studied. Throat swab specimens were collected from each patient. Fluorescence Quantitative PCR was performed to detect adenovirus as well as other common ARI-related pathogens. The seven HAdV hypervariable regions (HVRs) of the hexon gene from fifty-seven HAdVs-positive samples collected in the seasonal peaks were sequenced. Phylogenetic analysis of HVRs was also conducted to confirm the molecular types and genetic variation. In addition, epidemiological features and co-infection with other human respiratory pathogens were investigated and analyzed. RESULTS: Of 4,130 hospitalized pediatric patients tested, the positive rates of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), Mycoplasma pneumoniae (MP), and HAdV were 13.7%, 13.2%, and 12.0%, respectively. The HAdV positive patients accounted for 7.9%, 17.2%, 17.5% and 10.7% in age groups <1, 1-3, 3-6 and 6-14 years, respectively. Eighty-four HAdV positive children were co-infected with other respiratory pathogens (84/495, 17.0%). The most common co-infection pathogens with HAdV were MP (57.1%) and Human Bocavirus (HBoV) (16.7%). The majority of HAdV infected patients were totally recovered (96.9%, 480/495); However, four (0.8%) patients, who were previously healthy and at the age of 2 years or younger died of pneumonia. Seasonal peaks of HAdV infection occurred in the summer season of 2012 and 2013; the predominant HAdV type was HAdV-3 (70%), followed by HAdV-7 (28%). These epidemiological features were different from those in Northern China. The HAdV-55 was identified and reported for the first time in Guangzhou metropolitan area. Phylogenetic analysis indicated that all the HVR sequences of the hexon gene of HAdV-3 and -7 strains have high similarity within their individual types, and these strains were also similar to those circulating in China currently, indicating the conservation of hexon genes of both HAdV-3 and HAdV-7. CONCLUSIONS: Knowledge of the epidemiological features and molecular types of HAdV, a major pathogen of pediatric ARI, as well as other co-infected respiratory pathogens circulating in Guangzhou, southern China, is vital to predict and prevent future disease outbreaks in children. This study will certainly facilitate HAdV vaccine development and treatment of HAdV infections in children.