Reported co-infection deaths are more common in early adulthood and among similar infections

E. C. Griffiths*, A. B. Pedersen, A. Fenton, O. L. Petchey

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Background: Many people have multiple infections at the same time, but the combined contribution of those infections to disease-related mortality is unknown. Registered causes of death offer a unique opportunity to study associations between multiple infections. Methods: We analysed over 900,000 death certificates that reported infectious causes of death. We tested whether reports of multiple infections (i.e., co-infections) differed across individuals' age or sex. We also tested whether each pair of infections were reported together more or less often than expected by chance, and whether this co-reporting was associated with the number of biological characteristics they had in common. Results: In England and Wales, and the USA, 10 and 6 % respectively of infection-related deaths involved co-infection. Co-infection was reported reported most often in young adults; 30 % of infection-related deaths among those aged 25-44 from the USA, and 20 % of infection-related deaths among those aged 30-39 from England and Wales, reported multiple infections. The proportion of infection-related deaths involving co-infection declined with age more slowly in males than females, to less than 10 % among those aged >65. Most associated pairs of infections co-occurred more often than expected from their frequency of being reported alone (488/683 [71 %] in the USA, 129/233 [55 %] in England and Wales), and tended to share biological characteristics (taxonomy, transmission mode, tropism or timescale). Conclusions: Age, sex, and biologically similar infections are associated with death from co-infection, and may help indicate patients at risk of severe co-infection.

Original languageEnglish
Article number411
Number of pages7
JournalBMC Infectious Diseases
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 6 Oct 2015


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