Objectives To evaluate the potential associations between fever without a source (FWS) in children and detection of human enterovirus (HEV), human parechovirus (HPeV), adenovirus (AdV) and human herpesvirus type 6 (HHV-6) in the plasma; and to assess whether the detection of viruses in the plasma is associated with a reduced risk of serious bacterial infection (SBI) and antibiotic use.
Design and setting Between November 2015 and December 2017, this prospective, single-centre, diagnostic study tested the plasma of children <3 years old with FWS. Real-time (reverse-transcription) PCR for HEV, HPeV, AdV and HHV-6 was used in addition to the standardised institutional work-up. A control cohort was also tested for the presence of viruses in their blood.
Results HEV, HPeV, AdV and HHV-6 were tested for in the plasma of 135 patients of median age 2.4 months old. At least one virus was detected in 47 of 135 (34.8%): HEV in 14.1%, HHV-6 in 11.1%, HPeV in 5.9% and AdV in 5.2%. There was no difference in antibiotic use between patients with or without virus detected, despite a relative risk of 0.2 for an SBI among patients with viraemia. Controls were less frequently viraemic than children with FWS (6.0% vs 34.8%; p<0.001).
Conclusions HEV, HPeV, AdV and HHV-6 are frequently detected in the plasma of children with FWS. Antibiotic use was similar between viraemic and non-viraemic patients despite a lower risk of SBI among patients with viraemia. Point-of-care viral PCR testing of plasma might reduce antibiotic use and possibly investigations and admission rates in patients with FWS.
Trial registration number NCT03224026.
- serious bacterial infection
- viral systemic infection
- antibiotic use
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