The role of influenza, RSV and other common respiratory viruses in severe acute respiratory infections and influenza-like illness in a population with a high HIV sero-prevalence, South Africa, 2012-2015

05 May 2016

BACKGROUND : Viruses detected in patients with acute respiratory infections may be the cause of illness or colonizers. METHODS : We compared the prevalence of 10 common respiratory viruses (influenza A and B viruses, parainfluenza virus 1, 2, and 3; respiratory syncytial virus (RSV); adenovirus, rhinovirus, human metapneumovirus (hMPV) and enterovirus) in patients hospitalized with severe acute respiratory illness (SARI), outpatients with influenza-like illness (ILI), and control subjects who did not report any febrile, respiratory or gastrointestinal illness during 2012-2015 in South Africa. We estimated the attributable fraction (AF) and the detection rate attributable to illness for each of the different respiratory viruses. RESULTS : We enrolled 1959 SARI, 3784 ILI and 1793 controls. Influenza virus (AF: 86.3%; 95%CI: 77.7%-91.6%), hMPV (AF: 85.6%%; 95%CI: 72.0%-92.6%), and RSV (AF: 83.7%; 95%CI: 77.5%-88.2%) infections were highly associated with severe disease, while rhinovirus (AF: 46.9%; 95%CI: 37.6%-56.5%) and adenovirus (AF: 36.4%; 95%CI: 20.6%-49.0%) were only moderately associated. The estimated detection rate associated with severe disease was: 20.2% for rhinovirus, 16.7% for RSV, 7.0% for adenovirus, 4.9% for influenza virus and 3.8% for hMPV. Similar patterns were observed for patients with ILI. CONCLUSIONS : Influenza, RSV and hMPV can be considered likely pathogens if detected in patients with ILI and SARI while rhinovirus and adenovirus were commonly identified also among controls suggesting that they may cause only a proportion of clinical disease observed in positive patients. Nonetheless, given their high estimated detection rate attributable to illness, they may be important contributors to disease.