Childhood community-acquired pneumonia is a common illness, but there have been relatively few comprehensive studies of the viral and bacterial etiology in developed countries. The aim of the present investigation was to determine the etiology of community-acquired pneumonia in hospitalized children by several laboratory methods.
In a 3-year prospective study a nasopharyngeal aspirate for viral studies and acute and convalescent serum samples for viral and bacterial serology were taken from 254 children with symptoms of acute infection and infiltrates compatible with pneumonia in the chest radiograph. The role of 17 microbes was investigated.
A potential causative agent was detected in 215 (85%) of the 254 patients. Sixty-two percent of the patients had viral infection, 53% had bacterial infection and 30% had evidence of concomitant viral-bacterial infection. Streptococcus pneumoniae (37%), respiratory syncytial virus (29%) and rhinovirus (24%) were the most common agents associated with community-acquired pneumonia. Only one patient had a positive blood culture (S. pneumoniae) of 125 cultured. A dual viral infection was detected in 35 patients, and a dual bacterial infection was detected in 19 patients.
The possible causative agent of childhood community-acquired pneumonia can be detected in most cases. Further studies are warranted to determine what etiologic investigations would aid in the management of pneumonia. With effective immunization for S. pneumoniae and respiratory syncytial virus infections, more than one-half of the pneumonia cases in this study could have been prevented.