High Prevalence of Viral Infections Among Hospitalized Pneumonia Patients in Equatorial Sarawak, Malaysia

Open Forum Infect Dis. 2019 Feb 13;6(3):ofz074. doi: 10.1093/ofid/ofz074. eCollection 2019 Mar.


Background: Although pneumonia is a known cause of morbidity and mortality in Sarawak, Malaysia, the etiology and epidemiology of pneumonia are not well described in this equatorial region. Routine clinical diagnostics for pneumonia etiology at government hospitals in Sarawak had historically involved only bacterial diagnostics. Viral diagnostics were only obtained through outside consultations.

Methods: From June 15, 2017 to May 14, 2018, we collected nasopharyngeal swabs from 600 patients of all ages older than 1 month hospitalized with pneumonia at Sibu and Kapit Hospitals. Specimens were examined at our collaborating institutions with a panel of molecular assays for viral pathogens including influenza A (IAV), IBV, ICV, and IDV, human adenovirus (AdV), human enterovirus (EV), human coronavirus (CoV), respiratory syncytial virus subtype A (RSV-A) or RSV-B, and parainfluenza virus (PIV) types 1-4.

Results: Of 599 samples examined, 288 (48%) had molecular evidence of 1 or more respiratory viruses. Overall, the most prevalent virus detected was RSV-A (14.2%) followed by AdV (10.4%) and IAV (10.4%), then RSV-B (6.2%), EV (4.2%), IBV (2.2%), PIV-3 (1.7%), CoV (1.0%), PIV-1 (1.0%), PIV-4 (0.7%), and PIV-2 (0.2%). No specimens were confirmed positive for ICV or IDV.

Conclusions: The high prevalence of viruses detected in this study suggest that respiratory viruses may be responsible for considerable morbidity in equatorial regions such as Sarawak. Access to viral diagnostics are very necessary for medical staff to determine appropriate pneumonia treatments.

Keywords: adenoviruses; influenza; pneumonia; respiratory syncytial virus; respiratory viruses.