Viral pneumonia in adults and older children in sub-Saharan Africa — epidemiology, aetiology, diagnosis and management
© The Author(s) 2014
Received: 26 February 2014
Accepted: 27 June 2014
Published: 27 August 2014
Community-acquired pneumonia causes substantial morbidity and mortality in sub-Saharan Africa with an estimated 131 million new cases each year. Viruses — such as influenza virus, respiratory syncytial virus and parainfluenza virus — are now recognised as important causes of respiratory disease in older children and adults in the developed world following the emergence of sensitive molecular diagnostic tests, recent severe viral epidemics, and the discovery of novel viruses. Few studies have comprehensively evaluated the viral aetiology of adult pneumonia in Africa, but it is likely to differ from Western settings due to varying seasonality and the high proportion of patients with immunosuppression and co-morbidities. Emerging data suggest a high prevalence of viral pathogens, as well as multiple viral and viral/bacterial infections in African adults with pneumonia. However, the interpretation of positive results from highly sensitive polymerase chain reaction tests can be challenging. Therapeutic and preventative options against viral respiratory infections are currently limited in the African setting. This review summarises the current state of the epidemiology, aetiology, diagnosis and management of viral pneumonia in sub-Saharan Africa.