Pneumonia is the leading cause of death worldwide among children under five years old — greater than malaria, tuberculosis, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), Zika virus, and Ebola virus combined.
But the leading causes of severe childhood pneumonia have changed globally, according to a new study by a consortium of scientists from around the world, including a Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) researcher.
The study, published in The Lancet, was the largest and most comprehensive of its kind since the 1980s. It shows the success of decades of vaccination campaigns against the then-leading bacterial causes of severe childhood pneumonia in low- and middle-income countries. Now, viruses cause 61 percent of cases, according to the study, and the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) alone accounts for 31 percent of cases.
“This underscores the need for both a good vaccine against RSV and a good bedside diagnostic to determine which children do not need antibiotics but may benefit from greater supportive care,” says study co-author Dr. Donald Thea, professor of global health at BUSPH.
Led by the Johns Hopkins International Vaccine Access Center (IVAC), researchers conducted the Pneumonia Etiology Research for Child Health (PERCH) study at sites in Bangladesh, The Gambia, Kenya, Mali, South Africa, Thailand, and Zambia.Friday Letter Submission, Publish on July 26