BACKGROUND: Current tools to predict the severity of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) infection might be improved by including immunological parameters. We hypothesized that a combination of inflammatory markers would differentiate between severe and mild disease in RSV-infected children.
METHODS: Blood and nasopharyngeal samples from 52 RSV-infected children were collected during acute infection and after recovery. Retrospectively, patients were categorized into three groups based on disease severity: mild (no supportive treatment), moderate (supplemental oxygen and/or nasogastric feeding), and severe (mechanical ventilation). Clinical data, number of flow-defined leukocyte subsets, and cytokine concentrations were compared.
RESULTS: Children with severe RSV infection were characterized by young age; lymphocytopenia; increased interleukin (IL)-8, granulocyte colony-stimulating factor (G-CSF), and IL-6 concentrations; and decreased chemokine (C-C motif) ligand (CCL-5) concentrations in plasma. The combination of plasma levels of IL-8 and CCL-5, and CD4+ T-cell counts, with cutoff values of 67 pg/ml, 13 ng/ml, and 2.3 × 10(6)/ml, respectively, discriminated severe from mild RSV infection with 82% sensitivity and 96% specificity.
CONCLUSION: This study demonstrates that the combination of CD4+ T-cell counts and IL-8 and CCL-5 plasma concentrations correlates with disease severity in RSV-infected children. In addition to clinical features, these immunological markers may be used to assess severity of RSV infection and guide clinical management.