Background: Pneumonia is among the leading causes of illness and death in children <5 years of age worldwide. There is little information on the viral etiology of severe pneumonia in low-income countries, where the disease burden is particularly high.
Methods: We analyzed nasopharyngeal aspirates from 629 children 2 to 35 months of age meeting World Health Organization criteria for severe pneumonia and presenting at Kanti Children's Hospital, Kathmandu, Nepal, from January 2006 through June 2008. We examined one specimen from each child for 7 respiratory viruses using reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction.
Results: We detected one or more respiratory viruses in 188 (30%; confidence interval: 26.4%–33.7%) of the 627 specimens with a valid polymerase chain reaction result, of which 88 (14%) yielded respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), 28 (4.5%) influenza A, 24 (5.8%) parainfluenza virus (PIV) type 3, 23 (3.7%) PIV type 1, 17 (2.7%) influenza B, 9 (1.4%) human metapneumovirus, and 5 (0.8%) PIV type 2. Episodes of severe pneumonia occurred in an epidemic pattern with 2 main annual peaks, the viral infections contributing importantly to these epidemics. The largest peaks of severe pneumonia coincided with peaks of RSV infection, which occurred during the last part of the monsoon season and in winter.
Conclusions: RSV was the dominant respiratory viral pathogen detected in young Nepalese children hospitalized with severe pneumonia.