Most infants are infected with respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) during the first 2 y of life. The majority have only a mild upper respiratory tract infection, but 1-2% develop a more severe illness and are admitted to hospital.
Aim: To carry out a study of risk factors for hospital admission because of RSV infection in Denmark in children aged less than 2 y of age.
Methods: The study population included all 1252 children admitted to hospital with verified RSV infection in two Danish counties during the 5-y period 1990-1994. The investigation comprised a retrospective case-control study with five matched controls per case. In a multivariate analysis the risk factors included medical and demographic variables, and in infants <3 mo of age at hospitalization, two aspects of innate immunity: mannose-binding lectin (MBL) concentration and maternal RSV serum antibody titre, measured on eluates from stored dried blood from the infants' 4th day of life. The effect of each risk factor is expressed as an odds ratio, corresponding to the relative risk of being a case rather than a control if the risk factor is present.
Results: The following independent risk factors were identified: age, sex, month of birth, gestational age, birthweight, presence of a sibling, up to 5 y older than the case, and maternal smoking during pregnancy. There was a marginal effect of maternal RSV antibody levels, but no effect of neonatal serum MBL concentration or of crowding in the household.
Conclusions: Ninety percent of cases and 80% of controls had one or more risk factors. Even though several factors were found to increase the risk for hospitalization for RSV disease, all the effects were small and no single specific factor could be identified to explain the hospitalization of the minority of children with RSV infection.