Respiratory viruses are main childhood pneumonia culprit

Respiratory viruses, and not bacterial infections, are the most commonly detected causes of community-acquired pneumonia in children, according to research published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The multicenter Etiology of Pneumonia in the Community (EPIC) study was a prospective, population-based study of community-acquired pneumonia hospitalizations among children in the United States that sought to address critical gaps in the knowledge about pneumonia. The study shows that the burden of pneumonia-related hospitalization is highest among children younger than 5 years of age.

Researchers’ key findings revealed that 81 percent of cases examined were caused by viral infections, while only 8 percent were caused by bacterial infections and 7 percent were both viral and bacterial. That knowledge could be a catalyst for researchers to further investigate new and better ways to treat or prevent respiratory viruses, such respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), which can lead to pneumonia.

“Pneumonia is a leading cause of hospitalization and is nearly always treated with antibiotics, but results from the EPIC study indicate we could drastically reduce antibiotic use overall, and when we do use antibiotics, we could do a much better job of limiting the use of broad-spectrum antibiotics,” said study co-author Derek Williams, M.D., MPH, assistant professor of Pediatrics and member of the Vanderbilt Vaccine Research Program and the Division of Hospital Medicine.

– by Christina Echegaray