Increased prevalence of otitis media following respiratory syncytial virus infection


Sigurður Kristjánsson, M.D., Ph.D., Children’s Hospital, Landspítali University Hospital, IS-101 Reykjavík, Iceland.
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Aim:  The aim of this study was to analyse whether, during the 18 months following a respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) infection in infants, there were differences in the prevalence of common infections such as acute otitis media (AOM), compared with controls. We also wanted to see whether passive smoking could be a contributory factor.

Methods:  In a longitudinal study, 33 children who attended the emergency room with an RSV infection (age ≤7 months) were compared with 37 age-matched controls recruited from routine infant check-ups. The 18-month follow-up consisted of a questionnaire focusing on environmental factors and the child’s health during the last 12 months. An allergy skin prick test (SPT) was performed and venous blood was obtained.

Results:  The prevalence of AOM and the use of antibiotics were higher in the RSV group than in the controls (p = 0.009 and p = 0.027 respectively). The number of AOMs and the use of antibiotics correlated, r = 0.8. In the RSV group, one or both parents smoked in 52% compared with 14% in the controls (p < 0.001). There were no differences in allergy SPT results.

Conclusion:  The infants with RSV infection had AOM and were prescribed antibiotics more frequently during the follow-up period. Furthermore, smoking was far more common among the parents of the RSV group. We speculate that passive smoking could be a contributory factor to the infections noted here.