Populations at risk for developing respiratory syncytial virus and risk factors for respiratory syncytial virus severity: infants with predisposing conditions

Pediatr Infect Dis J. 2003 Feb;22(2 Suppl):S33-7; discussion S37-9. doi: 10.1097/01.inf.0000053883.08663.e5.


According to National Vital Statistics Reports, premature infants (< 36 weeks gestation) account for approximately 7.4% of all births. During the 8 years from 1989 to 1997, multiple births steadily increased across all categories from twin to quintuplet and higher orders. During that same period low birth weight (< 2500 g) births increased almost 12%, and very low birth weight (< 1500 g) births increased approximately 20%.Attendant to these national trends in multiple and preterm births, overall gestation-specific survival rates have improved substantially. This improved outcome can be attributed in large measure to advances in neonatal care and technology. Despite the encouraging statistics on survival, infants born prematurely, at low or very low birth weights and/or with chronic conditions that predispose to lower respiratory tract illness, continue to incur serious risk of long term morbidity and the consumption of inpatient hospital services. In a recent 2-year study of US children, low and very low birth weights were found to be independent risk factors for bronchiolitis-associated mortality. In the past 14 years what defines bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD)/chronic lung disease (CLD) has shifted away from clinical, radiographic and pathologic findings in the preterm infant toward the pathophysiology of arrested lung development and the need for supportive care beyond 36 weeks corrected gestational age. The incidence of BPD/CLD ranges from 14 to 43%, with higher rates observed among infants of lower gestational age and birth weight. The health care team approach to the management of BPD directs its efforts toward minimizing pulmonary vascular resistance, alleviating airway obstruction and improving short term lung mechanics. Measures to prevent BPD/CLD attempt to forestall both acute and chronic lung function abnormalities. To that end researchers have investigated the early use of continuous positive airway pressure, vitamin supplementation and recombinant human copper/zinc superoxide dismutase. Despite significant gains in the survival of infants born at lower gestational ages, prematurity, low birth weight and/or underlying chronic pulmonary disease put the pediatric patient at risk for increased frequency and severity of respiratory syncytial virus lower respiratory tract illness and the potential for its long term sequelae.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Airway Obstruction / etiology
  • Airway Obstruction / therapy
  • Female
  • Gestational Age
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Infant
  • Infant, Low Birth Weight
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Premature*
  • Lung Diseases / complications
  • Male
  • Morbidity
  • Multiple Birth Offspring
  • Positive-Pressure Respiration
  • Prognosis
  • Respiratory Syncytial Virus Infections / epidemiology
  • Respiratory Syncytial Virus Infections / etiology*
  • Respiratory Syncytial Virus Infections / therapy
  • Risk Factors
  • Vascular Resistance