Study: Viral pneumonia most common in children

Published On 04/06/2015

Pneumonia is the leading cause of hospitalization in children and respiratory viruses continue to be the most common reason children develop pneumonia, according to new results published in The New England Journal of Medicine. The results could help with improved strategies to prevent and treat pneumonia.

The study was published last month as part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Etiology of Pneumonia in the Community (EPIC) Study. Le Bonheur Children’s was one of three pediatric sites participating in the study, the largest-ever to investigate community-acquired pneumonia in hospitalized children and adults.

Le Bonheur enrolled 988 children between 2010 - 2012. The study was conducted by researchers at the CDC, Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital, University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC), St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, University of Utah Health Sciences, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.

Sandra Arnold“In this study we saw a low prevalence of bacterial infection that reflects the effectiveness of conjugate vaccines but also the poor sensitivity of the tests we have to diagnose bacterial pneumonia,” said Sandra Arnold, MD, chief of Pediatric Infectious Disease at Le Bonheur and UTHSC and principal investigator for the Le Bonheur site.

Of the 2,222 children in the study with radiographic pneumonia and specimens available for both bacterial and viral testing, one or more virus was detected in 66 percent of the children. Eight percent had bacteria and 7 percent had bacterial and viral co-detected pathogens. The study noted that increased influenza vaccination coverage and new respiratory syncytial virus vaccines and/or treatments could reduce the burden of pediatric pneumonia.

“We need better tests to identify the small proportion of children with pneumonia who have bacterial infection so that antibiotics can be appropriately prescribed for these children and avoided in children with viral infection for whom antibiotic therapy is unnecessary. Additional analyses of the EPIC Study data will examine ways to distinguish viral and bacterial pneumonia in children.”