<h4>Background</h4>Age-dependent differences in clinical presentation and viral loads in infants and young children with respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) infection, and their correlation with disease severity are poorly defined.<h4>Methods</h4>Previously healthy children <2 years old with mild (outpatients) and severe (inpatients) RSV infection were enrolled and viral loads measured by polymerase chain reaction in nasopharyngeal swabs. Patients were stratified by age in 0-<3, 3-6 and >6-24 months, and multivariable analyses were performed to identify clinical and viral factors associated with severe disease.<h4>Results</h4>From 2014 to 2018, we enrolled 534 children with RSV infection, 130 outpatients with mild RSV infection and 404 inpatients with severe RSV disease. Median duration of illness was 4 days for both groups, yet viral loads were higher in outpatients than in inpatients (P < 0.001). In bivariate analyses, wheezing was more frequent in outpatients of older age (>3 months) than in inpatients (P < 0.01), while fever was more common in inpatients than outpatients (P < 0.01) and its frequency increased with age. Adjusted analyses confirmed that increased work of breathing and fever were consistently associated with hospitalization irrespective of age, while wheezing in infants >3 months, and higher RSV loads in children >6-24 months were independently associated with reduced disease severity.<h4>Conclusions</h4>Age had a significant impact defining the interactions among viral loads, specific clinical manifestations and disease severity in children with RSV infection. These observations highlight the importance of patient stratification when evaluating interventions against RSV.
Pediatr Infect Dis J (The Pediatric infectious disease journal)
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