Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) can cause severe disease in adults, but far less is known than for influenza. The aim of our study was to compare the disease course of RSV infections with influenza infections among hospitalized adults.
We retrieved clinical data from an ongoing surveillance of adults hospitalized with RSV or influenza virus infection in two acute care hospitals in North-Eastern Switzerland during the winter seasons 2017/2018 and 2018/2019. Our main analysis compared the odds between RSV and influenza patients for admission to an intensive care unit (ICU) or in-hospital death within 7 days after admission.
There were 548 patients, of whom 79 (14.4%) had an RSV and 469 (85.6%) an influenza virus infection. Both groups were similar with respect to age, sex, smoking status, nutritional state, and comorbidities. More RSV patients had an infiltrate on chest radiograph on admission (46.4% vs 29.9%, p = .007). The proportion of patients with RSV who died or were admitted to ICU within seven days after admission was 19.0% compared to 10.2% in influenza patients (p = .024). In multivariable analysis, a higher leukocyte count (adjusted OR 1.07, 95% CI 1.02-1.13, p = .013) and the presence of a pneumonic infiltrate (aOR 3.41, 95% CI 1.93-6.02) significantly increased the risk for experiencing the adverse primary outcome while the effect of the underlying viral pathogen became attenuated (aOR 1.18, 95% CI 0.58-2.41, p = .0.655).
Our results suggest that RSV is responsible for clinical courses at least as severe as influenza in adults. This supports the need for better guidance on diagnostic strategies as well as on preventive and therapeutic measures for hospitalized adults with RSV infection.