Nasopharyngeal bacterial burden and antibiotics: Influence on inflammatory markers and disease severity in infants with respiratory syncytial virus bronchiolitis

J Infect. 2015 Oct;71(4):458-69. doi: 10.1016/j.jinf.2015.06.010. Epub 2015 Jul 3.


Objectives: Animal studies suggest that RSV increases nasopharyngeal (NP) bacterial colonization facilitating bacterial infections. We investigated the influence of antibiotic treatment and colonization with potentially pathogenic bacteria on inflammatory markers and disease severity in RSV-infected in infants.

Methods: Healthy young infants hospitalized with RSV bronchiolitis (n = 136) and age-matched healthy controls (n = 23) were enrolled and NP samples cultured for potentially pathogenic bacteria including: Gram-positive bacteria (GPB): Staphylococcus aureus, Streptococcus pneumoniae, β-hemolytic Streptococcus; and Gram-negative bacteria (GNB): Moraxella catarrhalis and Haemophilus influenzae. Clinical parameters and plasma IL-8, IL-6 and TNF-α concentrations were compared according to the bacterial class and antibiotic treatment.

Results: Antibiotic treatment decreased by 10-fold NP bacterial recovery. Eighty-one percent of RSV infants who did not receive antibiotics before sample collection were colonized with pathogenic bacteria. Overall, GNB were identified in 21% of patients versus 4% of controls who were mostly colonized with GPB. Additionally, in RSV patients NP white blood cell counts (p = 0.026), and blood neutrophils (p = 0.02) were higher in those colonized with potentially pathogenic bacteria versus respiratory flora. RSV patients colonized with GNB had higher plasma IL-8 (p = 0.01) and IL-6 (p < 0.01) concentrations than controls, and required longer duration of oxygen (p = 0.049).

Conclusions: Infants with RSV bronchiolitis colonized with potentially pathogenic bacteria had increased numbers of mucosal and systemic inflammatory cells. Specifically, colonization with GNB was associated with higher concentrations of proinflammatory cytokines and a trend towards increased disease severity.

Keywords: Antibiotics; Bronchiolitis; Disease severity; Gram-negative bacteria; Nasopharyngeal bacterial colonization; RSV.

Publication types

  • Observational Study

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Bacterial Load / drug effects
  • Biomarkers
  • Bronchiolitis, Viral / physiopathology*
  • Bronchiolitis, Viral / virology
  • Cytokines / blood
  • Female
  • Gram-Negative Bacteria / isolation & purification*
  • Gram-Positive Bacteria / isolation & purification*
  • Haemophilus influenzae / isolation & purification
  • Hospitalization / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Moraxella catarrhalis / isolation & purification
  • Nasopharynx / microbiology*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Respiratory Syncytial Virus Infections / physiopathology*
  • Respiratory Syncytial Virus Infections / virology
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Staphylococcus aureus / isolation & purification
  • Streptococcus / isolation & purification
  • Streptococcus / pathogenicity
  • Streptococcus pneumoniae / isolation & purification


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Biomarkers
  • Cytokines