Successful systemic high-dose ribavirin treatment of respiratory syncytial virus-induced infections occurring pre-engraftment in allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplant recipients

Transpl Infect Dis. 2013 Aug;15(4):435-40. doi: 10.1111/tid.12092. Epub 2013 May 20.


Introduction: Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is a frequent cause of respiratory tract infectious disease (RTID) in allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplant (HSCT) recipients associated with a high mortality once infection has progressed from upper RTID (URTID) to lower RTID (URTID). Aerosolized ribavirin (RBV) is considered a cornerstone of treatment, but is expensive and has toxic side effects on patients and staff. In this study, RSV infection was detected by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) from routinely collected throat swabs in HSCT patients. Infected individuals were treated according to an institutional protocol using intravenous (IV) RBV for patients with LRTID and oral ribavirin for URTID.

Results: RSV infection was diagnosed in 10 patients (median age 60 years) a median of 15 days after allogeneic HSCT for high-risk acute myeloid leukemia. Five patients with LRTID received IV RBV within 7 days after HSCT, and 5 with URTID were treated with oral RBV 12-40 days after HSCT. One patient died of septic shock associated with Pseudomonas aeruginosa-induced pneumonia 28 days after HSCT in prolonged neutropenia. All patients became RSV PCR negative on throat swabs within a median of 22 days from start of RBV. Despite severe lymphopenia, no patient treated for URTID progressed to LRTID. Neutrophil recovery was delayed in 3 patients.

Conclusions: We show that IV and oral RBV were efficacious in preventing progression and reducing mortality of RSV infection in this small series of allogeneic HSCT recipients. Randomized studies are not to be expected for this condition and therefore reporting case series could help in determining optimal RSV treatment.

Keywords: HSCT; RSV; hematopoietic stem cell transplant; respiratory syncytial virus; respiratory tract infection; ribavirin.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Female
  • Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation / adverse effects*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pharynx / virology
  • Respiratory Syncytial Virus Infections / drug therapy*
  • Respiratory Syncytial Virus Infections / mortality
  • Respiratory Syncytial Virus Infections / prevention & control
  • Respiratory Syncytial Virus Infections / virology
  • Respiratory Syncytial Virus, Human / drug effects*
  • Respiratory Syncytial Virus, Human / genetics
  • Respiratory Syncytial Virus, Human / isolation & purification
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / drug therapy*
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / mortality
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / prevention & control
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / virology
  • Ribavirin / administration & dosage*
  • Ribavirin / therapeutic use
  • Transplantation, Homologous / adverse effects
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Ribavirin