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Viral infections in immunocompromised patients: what's new with respiratory viruses?

Ison, Michael G.; Hayden, Frederick G.

Current Opinion in Infectious Diseases: August 2002 - Volume 15 - Issue 4 - p 355-367
Infections of the immunocompromised host

Purpose of review The leading cause of death in solid organ and hematopoietic stem cell transplant recipients is infection. The respiratory viruses, particularly respiratory syncytial virus, influenza, parainfluenza, adenovirus, and picornaviruses, are increasingly recognized as significant pathogens in these populations.

Recent findings Respiratory syncytial virus has again been found to be the most common of the respiratory viruses causing severe infections in transplant recipients. Advances in prevention, particularly with regard to infection control practices, and to lesser extent treatment have had a substantial impact on the frequency and outcomes of this infection. New studies have clarified the impact of influenza in the hematopoietic stem cell transplant recipients and have provided evidence to support the use of M2 and neuraminidase inhibitors for early treatment. The epidemiology of parainfluenza and adenovirus in transplant recipients has been clarified, although therapeutic modalities are still limited and understudied. New antiviral medications may bring improved outcomes of picornavirus infections in this population. Finally, a new virus, the human metapneumovirus, has recently been described and may be a significant respiratory pathogen in immunocompromised transplant recipients.

Summary Studies published over the past year have documented a new respiratory pathogen. They have also resulted in improved understanding of the epidemiology of all of the respiratory virus pathogens, and have contributed to improve management of respiratory syncytial virus and influenza infection in hematopoietic stem cell transplant and solid organ transplant recipients.

Division of Infectious Diseases, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia, USA

Correspondence to Michael G. Ison MD, Division of Infectious Diseases, University of Virginia, PO Box 800473, Hospital Drive, Private Clinics Blds Room 6557, Charlottesville, VA 22908, USA. Tel: +1 434 982 3931; fax: +1 434 982 3980; e-mail:

© 2002 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.