BACKGROUND: Acute lower respiratory infections (ALRIs) are an important cause of acute illnesses and mortality worldwide and in China. However, a large-scale study on the prevalence of viral infections across multiple provinces and seasons has not been previously reported from China. Here, we aimed to identify the viral etiologies associated with ALRIs from 22 Chinese provinces.
METHODS AND FINDINGS: Active surveillance for hospitalized ALRI patients in 108 sentinel hospitals in 24 provinces of China was conducted from January 2009-September 2013. We enrolled hospitalized all-age patients with ALRI, and collected respiratory specimens, blood or serum collected for diagnostic testing for respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), human influenza virus, adenoviruses (ADV), human parainfluenza virus (PIV), human metapneumovirus (hMPV), human coronavirus (hCoV) and human bocavirus (hBoV). We included 28,369 ALRI patients from 81 (of the 108) sentinel hospitals in 22 (of the 24) provinces, and 10,387 (36.6%) were positive for at least one etiology. The most frequently detected virus was RSV (9.9%), followed by influenza (6.6%), PIV (4.8%), ADV (3.4%), hBoV (1.9), hMPV (1.5%) and hCoV (1.4%). Co-detections were found in 7.2% of patients. RSV was the most common etiology (17.0%) in young children aged <2 years. Influenza viruses were the main cause of the ALRIs in adults and elderly. PIV, hBoV, hMPV and ADV infections were more frequent in children, while hCoV infection was distributed evenly in all-age. There were clear seasonal peaks for RSV, influenza, PIV, hBoV and hMPV infections.
CONCLUSIONS: Our findings could serve as robust evidence for public health authorities in drawing up further plans to prevent and control ALRIs associated with viral pathogens. RSV is common in young children and prevention measures could have large public health impact. Influenza was most common in adults and influenza vaccination should be implemented on a wider scale in China.