Respiratory Viruses and Treatment Failure in Children With Asthma Exacerbation

Respiratory pathogens commonly trigger pediatric asthma exacerbations, but their impact on severity and treatment response remains unclear.

METHODS: We performed a secondary analysis of the Determinants of Oral Corticosteroid Responsiveness in Wheezing Asthmatic Youth (DOORWAY) study, a prospective cohort study of children (aged 1–17 years) presenting to the emergency department with moderate or severe exacerbations. Nasopharyngeal specimens were analyzed by RT-PCR for 27 respiratory pathogens. We investigated the association between pathogens and both exacerbation severity (assessed with the Pediatric Respiratory Assessment Measure) and treatment failure (hospital admission, emergency department stay >8 hours, or relapse) of a standardized severity-specific treatment. Logistic multivariate regressions were used to
estimate average marginal effects (absolute risks and risk differences [RD]).

RESULTS: Of 958 participants, 61.7% were positive for ≥1 pathogen (rhinovirus was the most prevalent [29.4%]) and 16.9% experienced treatment failure. The presence of any pathogen was not associated with higher baseline severity but with a higher risk of treatment failure (20.7% vs 12.5%; RD = 8.2% [95% confidence interval: 3.3% to 13.1%]) compared to the absence of a pathogen. Nonrhinovirus pathogens were associated with an increased absolute risk (RD) of treatment failure by 13.1% (95% confidence interval: 6.4% to 19.8%), specifically, by 8.8% for respiratory syncytial virus, 24.9% for influenza, and 34.1% for parainfluenza.

CONCLUSIONS: Although respiratory pathogens were not associated with higher severity on presentation, they were associated with increased treatment failure risk, particularly in the presence of respiratory syncytial virus, influenza, and parainfluenza. This supports influenza prevention in asthmatic children, consideration of pathogen identification on presentation, and exploration of treatment intensification for infected patients at higher risk of treatment failure.