Surveillance for Respiratory Viruses Among Patients Hospitalized with Pneumonia in Sarawak, Malaysia

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Introduction: Pneumonia, despite its stereotype as a routine disease, remains the leading cause of morbidity and mortality among children under five worldwide, responsible for nearly 16% of all childhood deaths(1). With an imprecise definition and multiple etiologies, diagnosis and treatment of the disease is difficult when based solely on clinical and symptomatic manifestations(2). This study was conducted as a subset of an ongoing year-long study aimed to determine the viral etiology of and risk factors for pneumonia among 600 patients admitted to Sibu and Kapit Hospitals in Sarawak, Malaysia. Specifically, this sub-study examined molecular diagnostics for two common respiratory pathogens, which often infect children seen at these hospitals and which lacked any such diagnostic capability. We sought to determine the prevalence of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) subtypes A and B and parainfluenza virus (PIV) types 1- 4. The study describes demographic, viral and behavioral risk factors for these admissions. Additionally, the study aimed to assess viral transmission in the air in hospital wards.

Methods: To determine the viral etiology of pneumonia cases, this cross-sectional study enrolled 129 patients over the age of one month, who had been diagnosed and hospitalized with pneumonia at Sibu or Kapit Hospital in Sarawak, Malaysia between June 15 and July 27, 2017. Nasopharyngeal (NP) swabs were collected and analyzed using real-time reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (qRT-PCR) at Sibu Hospital’s Clinical Research Centre laboratory. A multivariable model was used to assess risk factors for the presence of different respiratory viruses.

Results: Of 129 specimens collected, 40 samples tested positive for RSV-A (31.01%), two were positive for RSV B (01.55%), one was positive for PIV-3 (0.78%) and one was positive for PIV-4 (0.78%). No samples were positive for PIV-1 or PIV-2. The prevalence of RSV-A was 46% (23/50) at Kapit Hospital and 21.52% at Sibu Hospital (17/79). In Sibu Hospital’s pediatric wards, one bioaerosol tested positive for adenovirus and two tested as suspect-positives for adenovirus. One (1) bioaerosol sample from an adult ward at Sibu Hospital tested as a suspect-positive for RSV-A. A multivariable analysis found risk factors of age (>1 year and 1-5 years vs > 5 years) and location of hospitalization (Kapit vs Sibu) potentially important predictors of RSV-A molecular detection.

Conclusions: During this brief demonstration study, we found a high prevalence of RSV-A among pneumonia patients admitted to the two hospitals. Having routine diagnostic capability for these viruses, particularly RSV, could help clinicians prescribe antiviral therapies which could reduce RSV morbidity and mortality.






Fieldhouse, Jane Kees (2017). Surveillance for Respiratory Viruses Among Patients Hospitalized with Pneumonia in Sarawak, Malaysia. Master's thesis, Duke University. Retrieved from


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