Background: Once considered primarily a pediatric concern, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) infection is gaining recognition as a cause of significant morbidity and mortality in adults. A better understanding of RSV epidemiology and disease in adults is needed to guide patient management and to assess the need for prophylaxis, vaccines, and treatments.
Methods: We conducted a retrospective cohort study of adults admitted to four hospitals in Toronto, Canada, between September 2012 and June 2013 with RSV identified by a qualitative real-time reverse-transcriptase polymerase chain reaction assay in nasopharyngeal swab or bronchoscopy specimens. Main outcomes were hospital length of stay, need for intensive care unit (ICU) or mechanical ventilation, and all-cause mortality.
Results: Eighty-six patients were identified as requiring hospitalization for RSV infection (56% female). Median age was 74 (range 19-102) years; 29 (34%) were < 65 years. Eighty-three (97%) had underlying chronic medical conditions; 27 (31%) were immunosuppressed, and 10 (12%) known smokers. The most common symptoms and signs were cough in 73 (85%), shortness of breath in 68 (79%), sputum production in 54 (63%), weakness in 43 (50%), fever in 41 (48%), and wheezing in 33 (38%). Lower respiratory tract complications occurred in 45 (52%), cardiovascular complications occurred in 19 (22%), and possible co-pathogens were identified in 11 (13%). Sixty-seven (78%) were treated with antibiotics and 31 (36%) with anti-influenza therapy. Thirteen (15%) required ICU care and 8 (9%) required mechanical ventilation. Five (6%) died during hospitalization. Need for ICU and mechanical ventilation were associated with mortality (P ≤ 0.02). Median hospital length of stay was 6 days (mean 10.8 days).
Conclusions: RSV infection is associated with the need for extended hospital stay, ICU care and mortality in adults of all ages with chronic underlying conditions. Presenting signs and symptoms are nonspecific, co-infections occur, and patients often receive antibiotics and anti-influenza therapy. There is need for ongoing research and development of RSV prophylaxis, vaccines and treatments for adults.