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Member Research and Reports

Member Research and Reports

Johns Hopkins: Seven-Country Study Reveals Viruses as New Leading Cause of Global Childhood Pneumonia

Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and other viruses now appear to be the main causes of severe childhood pneumonia in low- and middle-income countries, highlighting the need for vaccines against these pathogens, according to a study from a consortium of scientists from around the world, led by a team at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Pneumonia is the leading cause of death worldwide among children under 5 years old, with about 900,000 fatalities and more than 100 million reported cases each year.

The study, published June 27 in The Lancet, was the largest and most comprehensive of its kind since the 1980s. It included nearly 10,000 children in seven African and Asian countries. After testing for viruses, bacteria, and other pathogens in children with severe hospitalized pneumonia — and in community children without pneumonia — the study found that 61 percent of severe pneumonia cases were caused by viruses led by RSV, which alone accounted for 31 percent of cases.

The new study, known as the Pneumonia Etiology Research for Child Health (PERCH) study, included 4,232 cases of severe hospitalized pneumonia among children under 5 years and 5,325 community children without pneumonia during a two-year period. The study was carried out at sites in Bangladesh, The Gambia, Kenya, Mali, South Africa, Thailand, and Zambia.

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