Respiratory syncytial virus lower respiratory disease in hematopoietic cell transplant recipients: viral RNA detection in blood, antiviral treatment, and clinical outcomes

Clin Infect Dis. 2013 Dec;57(12):1731-41. doi: 10.1093/cid/cit639. Epub 2013 Sep 24.


Background: Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) pneumonia after hematopoietic cell transplant (HCT) is associated with severe morbidity. Although RSV RNA has been detected in serum from patients with RSV lower respiratory disease (LRD) after HCT, the association with clinical outcomes has not been well established in multivariable models. Additionally, the role of antiviral treatment in HCT recipients has not been previously analyzed in multivariable models.

Methods: We retrospectively identified HCT recipients with virologically confirmed RSV LRD and tested stored plasma/serum samples by quantitative reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction for RSV RNA. Risk factors for RSV RNA detection and the impact of RSV RNA in serum and antiviral therapy on outcomes were analyzed using multivariable Cox models.

Results: RSV RNA was detected in plasma or serum from 28 of 92 (30%) patients at a median of 24.5 days following HCT and 2 days following LRD. In multivariable models, neutropenia, monocytopenia, thrombocytopenia, and mechanical ventilation increased the risk of plasma/serum RSV RNA detection; lymphopenia and steroid use did not. RSV RNA detection increased the risk of overall mortality in multivariable models (adjusted hazard ratio [aHR], 2.09 [P = .02]), whereas treatment with aerosolized ribavirin decreased the risk of overall mortality and pulmonary death (aHR, 0.33 [P = .001] and aHR 0.31 [P = .003], respectively).

Conclusions: RSV RNA detection in plasma or serum may be a marker for lung injury and poor outcomes in HCT recipients with RSV LRD. Treatment with aerosolized ribavirin appeared to be protective against overall and pulmonary mortality.

Keywords: RSV; antiviral therapy; hematopoietic cell transplant; respiratory syncytial virus.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antiviral Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Female
  • Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation / adverse effects*
  • Humans
  • Kaplan-Meier Estimate
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • RNA, Viral / blood*
  • Respiratory Syncytial Virus Infections / drug therapy*
  • Respiratory Syncytial Virus Infections / etiology
  • Respiratory Syncytial Virus Infections / virology
  • Respiratory Syncytial Viruses / genetics
  • Respiratory Syncytial Viruses / isolation & purification*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Viral Load
  • Young Adult


  • Antiviral Agents
  • RNA, Viral