The role of viruses in the aetiology of community-acquired pneumonia in adults

Department of Microbiology, Hospital Clinic i Provincial de Barcelona, Spain.
Antiviral therapy (Impact Factor: 3.02). 02/2006; 11(3):351-9.
Source: PubMed


The role of viruses in community-acquired pneumonia may have been previously underestimated. We aimed to study the incidence and clinical characteristics of community-acquired pneumonia (CAP) due to respiratory viruses in adults adding PCR to routine conventional laboratory tests.
Consecutive adult patients diagnosed of CAP from January 2003 to March 2004 were included. Conventional tests including cultures of blood, sputum, urine antigen detection of Streptococcus pneumoniae and Legionella pneumophila, and paired serologies were routinely performed. Nasopharyngeal swabs were processed for study of respiratory viruses through antigen detection by indirect immunofluorescence assay, isolation of viruses in cell culture and detection of nucleic acids by two independent multiplex RT-PCR assays. According to the aetiology, patients were categorized in 4 groups: group 1, only virus detected; group 2, only bacteria detected; group 3, viral and bacterial; and group 4, unkown aetiology.
Of 340 patients diagnosed with CAP, 198 had nasopharyngeal swabs available and were included in this study. Aetiology was established in 112 (57%) patients: group 1, n=26 (13%); group 2, n=66 (33%); group 3, n=20 (10%). The most common aetiological agent was S. neumoniae (58 patients, 29%), followed by respiratory viruses (46 patients, 23%). Forty-eight respiratory viruses were identified: influenza virus A (n=16), respiratory syncytial virus A (n=5), adenovirus (n=8), parainfluenza viruses (n=5), enteroviruses (n=1), rhinoviruses (n=8) and coronavirus (n=5). There were two patients coinfected by two respiratory viruses. Serology detected 6 viruses, immunofluorescence 8, viral culture 12, and PCR 45. For the viruses that could be diagnosed with conventional methods, the sensitivity and specificity of RT-PCR was 85% and 92%, respectively. The only clinical characteristic that significantly distinguished viral from bacterial aetiology was a lower number of leukocytes (P=0.004).
PCR revealed that viruses represent a common aetiology of CAP. There is an urgent need to reconsider routine laboratory tests for an adequate diagnosis of respiratory viruses, as clinical characteristics are unable to reliably distinguish viral from bacterial aetiology.

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    • "A bacterium as a co-pathogen of a virus can be found in association with CAP (mixed viral-bacterial pneumonia) [1-4] and this accounts for as much as 39% of cases in which an etiological agent is identified [1-3]. In these studies, Streptococcus pneumoniae continues to be the most frequent producer of adult CAP, though frequently in association with a co-pathogen, especially viruses (20%-40%) [2,3,5,6]. It seems logical that, due to the lower sensitivity of techniques usually employed to diagnose bacterial infection, some pneumonias considered to be viral will actually be mixed CAP [3]. "
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    • "Studies published to date have suggested that influenza viruses and rhinoviruses are the leading causes of severe respiratory disease leading to hospitalization [21, 22], similarly to what was observed in our SARI/ARDS series, where hRV/hEV were the most common identified viruses along with influenza viruses. Also influenza A(H3N2) virus played a significant role in our SARI cases and caused ARDS in one patient with a weakened immune system due to HIV/AIDS. "
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    • "Viral infections are a clinically significant risk factor for bacterial pneumonia. Although influenza is widely recognized to predispose hosts to secondary bacterial pneumonias, epidemiologic studies have demonstrated that other respiratory viruses also appear to be associated with bacterial pneumonias [13], [29], [30], [31], [32], [33], [34]. However, the mechanisms for this phenomenon are still poorly understood, and models testing various combinations of different viruses and bacteria are difficult to establish. "
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