Estimated Incidence of Hospitalizations and Deaths Attributable to Respiratory Syncytial Virus Infections Among Adults in Germany Between 2015 and 2019

Infect Dis Ther. 2024 Apr;13(4):845-860. doi: 10.1007/s40121-024-00951-0. Epub 2024 Mar 23.


Introduction: Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) burden in adults is underestimated mainly due to unspecific symptoms and limited standard-of-care testing. We estimated the population-based incidence of hospitalization and mortality attributable to RSV among adults with and without risk factors in Germany.

Methods: Weekly counts of hospitalizations and deaths for respiratory, cardiovascular, and cardiorespiratory diseases were obtained (Statutory Health Insurance database, 2015-2019). A quasi-Poisson regression model was fitted to estimate the number of hospitalizations and deaths attributable to RSV as a function of periodic and aperiodic time trends, and viral activity while allowing for potential overdispersion. Weekly counts of RSV and influenza hospitalizations in children < 2 years and adults ≥ 60 years, respectively, were used as viral activity indicators. Models were stratified by age group and risk status (defined as presence of selected comorbidities).

Results: Population-based RSV-attributable hospitalization incidence rates were high among adults ≥ 60 years: respiratory hospitalizations (236-363 per 100,000 person-years) and cardiorespiratory hospitalizations (584-912 per 100,000 person-years). RSV accounted for 2-3% of all cardiorespiratory hospitalizations in this age group. The increase in cardiorespiratory hospitalization risk associated with underlying risk factors was greater in 18-44 year old persons (five to sixfold higher) than in ≥ 75 year old persons (two to threefold higher).

Conclusions: This is a first model-based study to comprehensively assess adult RSV burden in Germany. Estimated cardiorespiratory RSV hospitalization rates increased with age and were substantially higher in people with risk factors compared to those without risk factors. Our study indicates that RSV, like other respiratory viruses, contributes to both respiratory and cardiovascular hospitalizations. Effective prevention strategies are needed, especially among older adults ≥ 60 years and among adults with underlying risk factors.

Keywords: Adults; Disease burden; Germany; Hospitalization; Modeling; Mortality; Quasi-Poisson regression; Respiratory syncytial virus.