Clinical question: What are the complications and outcomes of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) infection in adults requiring hospitalization?
Background: RSV is a common cause of lower respiratory tract infection in infants and young children, leading to hospitalization and even death. RSV has been estimated to affect 3%-10% of adults annually, generally causing mild disease. However, the outcomes of adults with more severe disease are not fully known.
Study design: Retrospective cohort study.
Setting: Three acute care, public hospitals in Hong Kong.
Synopsis: All adult patients hospitalized with laboratory-confirmed RSV infection were included during the defined time period. The main outcome measure was all-cause death, with secondary outcome measures of development of acute respiratory failure requiring ventilator support and total duration of hospitalization among survivors. Additionally, the cohort of RSV patients was compared to patients admitted with seasonal influenza during this same time frame. Patients with pandemic 2009 H1N1 infection were not included.
Of patients with RSV, pneumonia was found in 42.3%, bacterial superinfection in 12.5%, and cardiovascular complications in 14.3%. Additionally, 11.1% developed respiratory failure requiring ventilator support. All-cause mortality at 30 days and 60 days was 9.1% and 11.9%, respectively, with pneumonia the most common cause of death. Use of systemic corticosteroids did not improve survival. When the RSV cohort was compared to the influenza cohort, the patients were similar in age, but the RSV patients were more likely to have underlying chronic lung disease and major systemic co-morbidities. The rate of survival and duration of hospitalization were not significantly different.
Bottom line: RSV infection is an underappreciated cause of lower tract respiratory infection in adults; severe infections that require hospitalization have rates of mortality similar to seasonal influenza. Further research on treatment or immunization is needed.
Citation: Lee N, Lui GC, Wong KT, et al. High morbidity and mortality in adults hospitalized for respiratory syncytial virus infections. Clin Infect Dis. 2013;57(8):1069-1077.