Antiviral therapy for respiratory tract infections

Respirology. 2008 Nov;13(7):950-71. doi: 10.1111/j.1440-1843.2008.01404.x.


Viruses are important pathogens causing respiratory tract infections both in the community and health-care facility settings. They are extremely common causes of morbidity in the competent hosts and some are associated with significant mortality in the compromised individuals. With wider application of molecular techniques, novel viruses are being described and old viruses are found to have new significance in different epidemiological and clinical settings. Some of these emerging pathogens may have the potential to cause pandemics or global spread of a severe disease, as exemplified by severe acute respiratory syndrome and avian influenza. Antiviral therapy of viral respiratory infections is often unnecessary in the competent hosts because most of them are selflimiting and effective agents are not always available. In the immunocompromised individuals or for infections caused by highly pathogenic viruses, such as avian influenza viruses (AIV), antiviral treatment is highly desirable, despite the fact that many of the agents may not have undergone stringent clinical trials. In immunocompetent hosts, antiviral therapy can be stopped early because adaptive immune response can usually be mounted within 5-14 days. However, the duration of antiviral therapy in immunosuppressed hosts depends on clinical and radiological resolution, the degree and duration of immunosuppression, and therefore maintenance therapy is sometimes needed after the initial response. Immunotherapy and immunoprophylaxis appear to be promising directions for future research. Appropriate and targeted immunomodulation may play an important adjunctive role in some of these infections by limiting the extent of end-organ damage and multi-organ failure in some fulminant infections.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antiviral Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / drug therapy*
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / virology*
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Antiviral Agents