Objective: To systematically review the evidence evaluating the efficacy of aerosolized ribavirin for the treatment of infants with respiratory syncytial virus lower respiratory tract infection.
Design: A computerized search of MEDLINE from 1975 to the present, a review of the reference lists of each retrieved article, and contact with experts.
Patients: infants with documented respiratory syncytial virus lower respiratory tract infection who were the subjects of 8 double-blind randomized placebo-controlled trials.
Methods: Two independent reviewers assessed study quality and extracted data on the study populations, the drug regimens, and clinically relevant outcome measurements.
Results: Ribavirin does not significantly reduce mortality rate (relative risk [RR] = 0.42, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 0.13, 1.44) or lower the probability of respiratory deterioration (RR = 0.42, 95% CI = 0.16, 1.34) when meta-analysis is used to pool the outcomes of 3 trials, although strong trends in the direction of benefit are present. No study found ribavirin to shorten length of hospitalization. Results on length of ventilation and oxygen supplementation are conflicting.
Conclusions: Use of ribavirin in infants with respiratory syncytial virus lower respiratory tract infection is not supported by evidence of significant benefit. However, previous studies lack sufficient power to rule out a potential reduction in mortality rate or respiratory deterioration. A large randomized controlled trial of ribavirin for ventilated and other high-risk patients is needed.