Unrecognized viral respiratory tract infections in premature infants during their birth hospitalization: a prospective surveillance study in two neonatal intensive care units

J Pediatr. 2012 Nov;161(5):814-8. doi: 10.1016/j.jpeds.2012.05.001. Epub 2012 Jun 12.


Objective: To determine the frequency and effects of nosocomial respiratory viral infections (RVIs) in premature neonates, including those who may be asymptomatic.

Study design: We performed a year-long surveillance for RVIs in infants <33 weeks gestational age admitted to 2 Syracuse neonatal intensive care units. Infants were enrolled within 3 days of neonatal intensive care unit admission and were sampled for RVIs until discharge using a multiplex polymerase chain reaction assay capable of detecting 17 different respiratory viruses or subtypes.

Results: Twenty-six of 50 prematurely born infants (52%) tested positive for a respiratory virus at least once during their birth hospitalization. Testing positive for a respiratory virus was significantly associated with longer length of stay (70 days vs 35 days, P = .002) and prolonged ventilatory support (51 vs 13 days, P = .002). Infants who tested positive for a respiratory virus during their birth hospitalization had more than twice the rate of developing bronchopulmonary dysplasia (P < .05).

Conclusion: Nosocomial RVIs were frequent in our study population, despite the absence of clinical indicators of illness. Length of hospital stay was significantly longer and a diagnosis of bronchopulmonary dysplasia was more common in infants who had respiratory viruses detected.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Gestational Age
  • Hospitalization
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Premature
  • Intensive Care Units, Neonatal
  • Intensive Care, Neonatal / methods*
  • Male
  • Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus / metabolism
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction / methods
  • Prospective Studies
  • Respiration, Artificial
  • Respiratory Syncytial Viruses / metabolism
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / diagnosis*
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / virology
  • Respirovirus / metabolism
  • Virus Diseases / diagnosis*