Global disease burden of and risk factors for acute lower respiratory infections caused by respiratory syncytial virus in preterm infants and young children in 2019: a systematic review and meta-analysis of aggregated and individual participant data

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BACKGROUND: Infants and young children born prematurely are at high risk of severe acute lower respiratory infection (ALRI) caused by respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). In this study, we aimed to assess the global disease burden of and risk factors for RSV-associated ALRI in infants and young children born before 37 weeks of gestation.

METHODS: We conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of aggregated data from studies published between Jan 1, 1995, and Dec 31, 2021, identified from MEDLINE, Embase, and Global Health, and individual participant data shared by the Respiratory Virus Global Epidemiology Network on respiratory infectious diseases. We estimated RSV-associated ALRI incidence in community, hospital admission, in-hospital mortality, and overall mortality among children younger than 2 years born prematurely. We conducted two-stage random-effects meta-regression analyses accounting for chronological age groups, gestational age bands (early preterm, <32 weeks gestational age [wGA], and late preterm, 32 to <37 wGA), and changes over 5-year intervals from 2000 to 2019. Using individual participant data, we assessed perinatal, sociodemographic, and household factors, and underlying medical conditions for RSV-associated ALRI incidence, hospital admission, and three severity outcome groups (longer hospital stay [>4 days], use of supplemental oxygen and mechanical ventilation, or intensive care unit admission) by estimating pooled odds ratios (ORs) through a two-stage meta-analysis (multivariate logistic regression and random-effects meta-analysis). This study is registered with PROSPERO, CRD42021269742.

FINDINGS: We included 47 studies from the literature and 17 studies with individual participant-level data contributed by the participating investigators. We estimated that, in 2019, 1 650 000 (95% uncertainty range [UR] 1 350 000-1 990 000) RSV-associated ALRI episodes, 533 000 (385 000-730 000) RSV-associated hospital admissions, 3050 (1080-8620) RSV-associated in-hospital deaths, and 26 760 (11 190-46 240) RSV-attributable deaths occurred in preterm infants worldwide. Among early preterm infants, the RSV-associated ALRI incidence rate and hospitalisation rate were significantly higher (rate ratio [RR] ranging from 1·69 to 3·87 across different age groups and outcomes) than for all infants born at any gestational age. In the second year of life, early preterm infants and young children had a similar incidence rate but still a significantly higher hospitalisation rate (RR 2·26 [95% UR 1·27-3·98]) compared with all infants and young children. Although late preterm infants had RSV-associated ALRI incidence rates similar to that of all infants younger than 1 year, they had higher RSV-associated ALRI hospitalisation rate in the first 6 months (RR 1·93 [1·11-3·26]). Overall, preterm infants accounted for 25% (95% UR 16-37) of RSV-associated ALRI hospitalisations in all infants of any gestational age. RSV-associated ALRI in-hospital case fatality ratio in preterm infants was similar to all infants. The factors identified to be associated with RSV-associated ALRI incidence were mainly perinatal and sociodemographic characteristics, and factors associated with severe outcomes from infection were mainly underlying medical conditions including congenital heart disease, tracheostomy, bronchopulmonary dysplasia, chronic lung disease, or Down syndrome (with ORs ranging from 1·40 to 4·23).

INTERPRETATION: Preterm infants face a disproportionately high burden of RSV-associated disease, accounting for 25% of RSV hospitalisation burden. Early preterm infants have a substantial RSV hospitalisation burden persisting into the second year of life. Preventive products for RSV can have a substantial public health impact by preventing RSV-associated ALRI and severe outcomes from infection in preterm infants.

FUNDING: EU Innovative Medicines Initiative Respiratory Syncytial Virus Consortium in Europe.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1241-1253
Number of pages13
JournalLancet (London, England)
Issue number10433
Publication statusPublished - 30 Mar 2024


  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Global Burden of Disease
  • Hospitalization
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Premature
  • Pneumonia
  • Respiratory Syncytial Virus Infections/epidemiology
  • Respiratory Syncytial Virus, Human
  • Respiratory Tract Infections/epidemiology
  • Risk Factors


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