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Viral pneumonia: etiologies and treatment


Viral pathogens are increasingly recognized as a cause of pneumonia, in immunocompetent patients and more commonly among immunocompromised. Viral pneumonia in adults could present as community-acquired pneumonia (CAP), ranging from mild disease to severe disease requiring hospital admission and mechanical ventilation. Moreover, the role of viruses in hospital-acquired pneumonia and ventilator-associated pneumonia as causative agents or as co-pathogens and the effect of virus detection on clinical outcome are being investigated.

More than 20 viruses have been linked to CAP. Clinical presentation, laboratory findings, biomarkers, and radiographic patterns are not characteristic to specific viral etiology. Currently, laboratory confirmation is most commonly done by detection of viral nucleic acid by reverse transcription-PCR of respiratory secretions.

Apart from the US Food and Drug Administration-approved medications for treatment of influenza pneumonia, the treatment of non-influenza respiratory viruses is limited. Moreover, the evidence supporting the use of available antivirals to treat immunocompromised patients is modest at best. With the widespread use of molecular diagnostics, an aging population, and advancement in cancer therapy, physicians will face a bigger challenge in managing viral respiratory tract infections. Emphasis on infection control measures to prevent the spread of respiratory viruses especially in healthcare settings is extremely important.

  • pneumonia
  • antiviral agents

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