Defining the Risk and Associated Morbidity and Mortality of Severe Respiratory Syncytial Virus Infection Among Preterm Infants Without Chronic Lung Disease or Congenital Heart Disease

Infect Dis Ther. 2016 Dec;5(4):417-452. doi: 10.1007/s40121-016-0130-1. Epub 2016 Sep 14.


Introduction: The REGAL (RSV Evidence-a Geographical Archive of the Literature) series provide a comprehensive review of the published evidence in the field of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) in Western countries over the last 20 years. This second publication covers the risk and burden of RSV infection in preterm infants born at <37 weeks' gestational age (wGA) without chronic lung disease or congenital heart disease.

Methods: A systematic review was undertaken for articles published between January 1, 1995 and December 31, 2015. Studies reporting data for hospital visits/admissions for RSV infection among preterm infants as well as studies reporting RSV-associated morbidity, mortality, and risk factors were included. Study quality and strength of evidence (SOE) were graded using recognized criteria.

Results: 2469 studies were identified of which 85 were included. Preterm infants, particularly those born at lower wGA, tended to have higher RSV hospitalization (RSVH) rates compared with otherwise healthy term infants (high SOE). RSVH rates ranged from ~5 per 1000 children to >100 per 1000 children with the highest rates shown in the lowest gestational age infants (high SOE). Independent risk factors associated with RSVH include: proximity of birth to the RSV season, living with school-age siblings, smoking of mother during pregnancy or infant exposure to environmental smoking, reduced breast feeding, male sex, and familial atopy (asthma) (high SOE). Predictive models can identify 32/33-35 wGA infants at risk of RSVH (high SOE).

Conclusion: RSV infection remains a major burden on Western healthcare systems and is associated with significant morbidity. Further studies focusing on the prevalence and burden of RSV in different gestational age cohorts, the changing risk of RSVH during the first year of life, and on RSV-related mortality in preterm infants are needed to determine the true burden of disease.

Funding: AbbVie.

Keywords: Burden; Gestational age; Hospitalization; Immunoprophylaxis; Preterm; Respiratory syncytial virus; Risk.

Publication types

  • Review