COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Researchers have found that a respiratory virus common in children under the age of two also afflicts previously healthy adults.
The Ohio State University research suggests that because doctors and hospitals do not routinely test adults for Respiratory Sincytial Virus (RSV), a form of viral pneumonia, they sometimes misdiagnose it as bacterial pneumonia, which requires different treatment.
Antibiotics for bacterial pneumonia dont work against RSV, so if we think somebody has pneumonia and they really have RSV, we dont help them by giving them standard antibiotics, said Andrew R. Murry, an Ohio State clinical instructor of internal medicine.
When researchers scoured the medical records and blood tests of 1,195 pneumonia patients hospitalized between December 1990 and May 1992 in two Ohio counties, they found that 57 of the patients -- or 4.4 percent -- actually had RSV.
RSV has never been recognized as a serious problem for adults, said Murry. There is a great deal of information about adult RSV in medical literature, but nobody has gone through it all and looked at it quite this way until now.
For a paper which appeared in a recent issue of the journal Hospital Practice, Murry and Scott F. Dowell, a medical epidemiologist for the Centers for Disease Control, pored over these medical records as well as the results of other studies dating back to the 1960s. Murry and Dowell then pieced together a set of symptoms that doctors can look for when examining a patient for RSV.
Murry said the typical patient had experienced severe cold symptoms for
a week or two, then, despite taking antibiotics, developed a worse fever,
shortness of breath, or wheezing before entering the hospital. Some had
underlying medical problems such as heart disease or lung disease that were
exacerbated by the illness, but 8 of the 57 RSV-positive people were previously
Contact: Andrew R. Murry
Ohio State University