Viral infection in patients with severe pneumonia requiring intensive care unit admission

Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2012 Aug 15;186(4):325-32. doi: 10.1164/rccm.201112-2240OC. Epub 2012 Jun 14.


Rationale: The role of viruses in pneumonia in adults and the impact of viral infection on mortality have not been elucidated. Previous studies have significant limitations in that they relied predominantly on upper respiratory specimens.

Objectives: To investigate the role of viral infection in adult patients with pneumonia requiring intensive care unit (ICU) admission.

Methods: A retrospective analysis of a prospective cohort was conducted in a 28-bed medical ICU. Patients with severe community-acquired pneumonia (CAP) or healthcare-associated pneumonia (HCAP) were included in the study.

Measurements and main results: A total of 198 patients (64 with CAP, 134 with HCAP) were included for analysis. Of these, 115 patients (58.1%) underwent bronchoscopic bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL), 104 of whom were tested for respiratory viruses by BAL fluid reverse-transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR). Nasopharyngeal specimen RT-PCR was performed in 159 patients (84.1%). Seventy-one patients (35.9%) had a bacterial infection, and 72 patients (36.4%) had a viral infection. Rhinovirus was the most common identified virus (23.6%), followed by parainfluenza virus (20.8%), human metapneumovirus (18.1%), influenza virus (16.7%), and respiratory syncytial virus (13.9%). Respiratory syncytial virus was significantly more common in the CAP group (CAP, 10.9%; HCAP, 2.2%; P = 0.01). The mortalities of patients with bacterial infections, viral infections, and bacterial-viral coinfections were not significantly different (25.5, 26.5, and 33.3%, respectively; P = 0.82).

Conclusions: Viruses are frequently found in the airway of patients with pneumonia requiring ICU admission and may cause severe forms of pneumonia. Patients with viral infection and bacterial infection had comparable mortality rates.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Bacterial Infections / virology
  • Bronchoalveolar Lavage Fluid / virology
  • Cohort Studies
  • Coinfection / virology
  • Community-Acquired Infections / virology
  • Cross Infection / virology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nasopharynx / virology
  • Pneumonia / virology*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Survival Analysis
  • Virus Diseases / virology*
  • Young Adult