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1.  Genetic Polymorphisms and Sepsis in Premature Neonates 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(7):e101248.
Identifying single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in the genes involved in sepsis may help to clarify the pathophysiology of neonatal sepsis. The aim of this study was to evaluate the relationships between sepsis in pre-term neonates and genes potentially involved in the response to invasion by infectious agents. The study involved 101 pre-term neonates born between June 2008 and May 2012 with a diagnosis of microbiologically confirmed sepsis, 98 pre-term neonates with clinical sepsis and 100 randomly selected, otherwise healthy pre-term neonates born during the study period. During the study, 47 SNPs in 18 candidate genes were genotyped on Guthrie cards using an ABI PRISM 7900 HT Fast real-time and MAssARRAY for nucleic acids instruments. Genotypes CT and TT of rs1143643 (the IL1β gene) and genotype GG of rs2664349GG (the MMP-16 gene) were associated with a significantly increased overall risk of developing sepsis (p = 0.03, p = 0.05 and p = 0.03), whereas genotypes AG of rs4358188 (the BPI gene) and CT of rs1799946 (the DEFβ1 gene) were associated with a significantly reduced risk of developing sepsis (p = 0.05 for both). Among the patients with bacteriologically confirmed sepsis, only genotype GG of rs2664349 (the MMP-16 gene) showed a significant association with an increased risk (p = 0.02). Genotypes GG of rs2569190 (the CD14 gene) and AT of rs4073 (the IL8 gene) were associated with a significantly increased risk of developing severe sepsis (p = 0.05 and p = 0.01). Genotype AG of rs1800629 (the LTA gene) and genotypes CC and CT of rs1341023 (the BPI gene) were associated with a significantly increased risk of developing Gram-negative sepsis (p = 0.04, p = 0.04 and p = 0.03). These results show that genetic variability seems to play a role in sepsis in pre-term neonates by influencing susceptibility to and the severity of the disease, as well as the risk of having disease due to specific pathogens.
PMCID: PMC4085055  PMID: 25000179
2.  Nasal saline irrigation in preschool children: a survey of attitudes and prescribing habits of primary care pediatricians working in northern Italy 
It has been shown that nasal saline irrigation (NSI) alone can be effective in children with infectious and/or allergic respiratory problems, but no study has assessed the awareness or clinical use of NSI among practising pediatricians. The main aim of this study was to evaluate the use of NSI in pre-school children by primary care pediatricians working in northern Italy.
Nine hundred randomly selected National Health Service primary care pediatricians with an e-mail address were sent an e-mail asking whether they were willing to respond to a questionnaire regarding the use of NSI. The 870 who answered positively were sent an anonymous questionnaire by post and e-mail that had 17 multiple-choice items.
Completed questionnaires were received from 860 of the 870 primary care pediatricians (98.8%). NSI was used by almost all the respondents (99.3%), although with significant differences in frequency. It was considered both a prophylactic and a therapeutic measure by most of the respondents (60.3%), who prescribed it every day for healthy children and more frequently when they were ill. Most of the primary care pediatricians (87%) indicated an isotonic solution as the preferred solution, and the most frequently recommended administration devices were a nasal spray (67.7%) and bulb syringe (20.6%). Most of the pediatricians (75.6%) convinced parents to use NSI by explaining it could have various beneficial effects, and two-thirds (527/854; 61.7%) thought that most of the parents agreed about the importance of NSI. Analysis of possible associations between NSI prescribing behaviour and the demographic data revealed an associations with age and gender, with pediatricians aged <50 years prescribing NSI more frequently than their older counterparts (p < 0.01), and females prescribing NSI more frequently than males (p < 0.01).
In Northern Italy, most primary care pediatricians prescribe NSI for both the prophylaxis and therapy of upper respiratory tract problems in pre-school children. However, many aspects of the procedure are not clarified, and this reduces parental compliance. Given the medical and economic advantages of NSI, this situation should be changed as soon as possible.
PMCID: PMC4041066  PMID: 24887239
Isotonic saline solution; Hypertonic saline solution; Nasal saline irrigation; Nasal spray; Respiratory tract infection
3.  Vaccine administration and the development of immune thrombocytopenic purpura in children 
Human Vaccines & Immunotherapeutics  2013;9(5):1158-1162.
The most important reasons cited by the opponents of vaccines are concerns about vaccine safety. Unlike issues such as autism for which no indisputable documentation of direct relationship with vaccine use is available, immune thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP) is an adverse event that can really follow vaccine administration, and may limit vaccine use because little is known about which vaccines it may follow, its real incidence and severity, the risk of chronic disease, or the possibility of recurrences after new doses of the same vaccine. The main aim of this review is to clarify the real importance of thrombocytopenia as an adverse event and discuss how it may interfere with recommended vaccination schedules. The available data clearly indicate that ITP is very rare and the only vaccine for which there is a demonstrated cause-effect relationship is the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine that can occur in 1 to 3 children every 100,000 vaccine doses. However, also in this case, the incidence of ITP is significantly lower than that observed during the natural diseases that the vaccine prevents. Consequently, ITP cannot be considered a problem limiting vaccine use except in the case of children suffering from chronic ITP who have to receive MMR vaccine. In these subjects, the risk-benefit ratio of the vaccine should be weighed against the risk of measles in the community.
PMCID: PMC3899154  PMID: 23324619
adverse events; immune thrombocytopenic purpura; MMR; platelets; vaccine safety; vaccine
4.  Impact of vitamin D administration on immunogenicity of trivalent inactivated influenza vaccine in previously unvaccinated children 
As vitamin D (VD) has a significant regulatory effect on innate and adaptive immunity, the aim of this prospective, randomized, single-blinded, placebo-controlled study was to measure the impact of VD administration on the immune response to trivalent influenza vaccination (TIV). A total of 116 children (61 males, 52.6%; mean age 3.0 ± 1.0 y) with a history of recurrent acute otitis media (AOM), who had not been previously vaccinated against influenza, were randomized to receive daily VD 1,000 IU or placebo by mouth for four months. All of them received two doses of TIV (Fluarix, GlaxoSmithKline Biologicals) one month apart, with the first dose administered when VD supplementation was started. There was no difference in seroconversion or seroprotection rates, or antibody titers, in relation to any of the three influenza vaccine antigens between the VD and placebo groups, independently of baseline and post-treatment VD levels. The safety profile was also similar in the two groups. These data indicate that the daily administration of VD 1,000 IU for four months from the time of the injection of the first dose of TIV does not significantly modify the antibody response evoked by influenza vaccine.
PMCID: PMC3899163  PMID: 23324599
acute otitis media, children; influenza, influenza vaccination, trivalent influenza vaccine, vitamin D, vitamin D supplementation
5.  Vitamin D and influenza vaccination 
PMCID: PMC3899165  PMID: 23404340
acute otitis media; influenza; influenza vaccine; vitamin D; vitamin D supplementation
6.  Performance of lung ultrasonography in children with community-acquired pneumonia 
There are few prospective evaluations of point-of-care ultrasonography (US) for the diagnosis of pediatric community-acquired pneumonia (CAP). In particular, there are very few data concerning the efficiency of US in comparison with that of chest radiography (CR) in defining different kinds of lung alterations in the various pulmonary sections. The aim of this study was to bridge this gap in order to increase our knowledge of the performance of US in diagnosing CAP in childhood.
A total of 103 children (56 males, 54.4%; mean age ± standard deviation 5.6 ± 4.6 years) admitted to hospital with a clinical diagnosis of suspected CAP were prospectively enrolled and underwent CR (evaluated by an independent expert radiologist) and lung US (performed by a resident in paediatrics with limited experience in US). The performance of US in diagnosing CAP (i.e. its sensitivity, specificity, and positive and negative predictive values) was compared with that of CR.
A total of 48 patients had radiographically confirmed CAP. The sensitivity, specificity, and positive and negative predictive values of US in comparison with CR were respectively 97.9%, 94.5%, 94.0% and 98.1%. US identified a significantly higher number of cases of pleural effusion, but the concordance of the two methods in identifying the type of CAP was poor.
US can be considered a useful means of diagnosing CAP in children admitted to an Emergency Department with a lower respiratory tract infection, although its usefulness in identifying the type of lung involvement requires further evaluation.
PMCID: PMC4012508  PMID: 24742171
Chest radiography; Community-acquired pneumonia; Lower respiratory tract infection; Lung ultrasonography; Pneumonia; Radiology
7.  Do children’s upper respiratory tract infections benefit from probiotics? 
BMC Infectious Diseases  2014;14:194.
The microbiota of the gastrointestinal tract have profound influence at multiple levels, even on the development and maintenance of lung immunity and inflammation. Aim of this review is to evaluate the current knowledge about the specific impact on children’s respiratory tract infections from probiotics, live microbes with the power to modify intestinal microbial populations and exert subsequent benefits for the host.
The role of probiotics in gastrointestinal and allergic diseases has been largely assessed, but the number of studies performed so far in the field of respiratory tract infections is small, though some data show that probiotic administration might display clinical advantages. Probiotic strain identity and host genetic differences may account for differential modulation of immune responses by probiotics. Current laboratory and clinical data regarding the possibility of the role of probiotics on preventing the development of respiratory tract infections are contradictory, and are somewhat insufficient to recommend strongly their routine use. Further study of gastrointestinal-respiratory interactions is likely to yield important insights into the pathogenesis of different pulmonary diseases, and improve our knowledge in the prophylactic role of probiotics in children affected by recurrent upper respiratory tract infections.
A better understanding of the effects of different probiotic strains and a deeper insight into their mechanisms of action are needed for the validation of specific strains carrying a potential to modify the frequency and severity of RTIs in infants and children. No data have been collected in pediatric patients with chronic underlying diseases, and yet there are no published data concerning treatment of RTIs with probiotics. The very few studies published so far do not indicate which micro-organism or administration regimen might exert beneficial effects as a prevention tool of RTIs both in healthy children and in those with recurrent RTIs. Further research to establish the role of probiotics in the treatment and prevention of RTIs, including those involving the lower respiratory tract, are required and should also clarify if any susceptible subgroups of respiratory diseases exist, and how these subgroups benefit from supplementation with certain probiotic strains.
PMCID: PMC3984429  PMID: 24720809
Acute otitis media; Children; Prevention; Probiotics; Respiratory tract infection; Upper respiratory tract infections
8.  Immune history shapes specificity of pandemic H1N1 influenza antibody responses 
The Journal of Experimental Medicine  2013;210(8):1493-1500.
The specificity of H1N1 antibody responses can be shifted to epitopes near the HA receptor–binding domain after sequential infections with viral strains that share homology in this region.
Human antibody responses against the 2009 pandemic H1N1 (pH1N1) virus are predominantly directed against conserved epitopes in the stalk and receptor-binding domain of the hemagglutinin (HA) protein. This is in stark contrast to pH1N1 antibody responses generated in ferrets, which are focused on the variable Sa antigenic site of HA. Here, we show that most humans born between 1983 and 1996 elicited pH1N1 antibody responses that are directed against an epitope near the HA receptor–binding domain. Importantly, most individuals born before 1983 or after 1996 did not elicit pH1N1 antibodies to this HA epitope. The HAs of most seasonal H1N1 (sH1N1) viruses that circulated between 1983 and 1996 possess a critical K133 amino acid in this HA epitope, whereas this amino acid is either mutated or deleted in most sH1N1 viruses circulating before 1983 or after 1996. We sequentially infected ferrets with a 1991 sH1N1 virus and then a pH1N1 virus. Sera isolated from these animals were directed against the HA epitope involving amino acid K133. These data suggest that the specificity of pH1N1 antibody responses can be shifted to epitopes near the HA receptor–binding domain after sequential infections with sH1N1 and pH1N1 viruses that share homology in this region.
PMCID: PMC3727314  PMID: 23857983
9.  Phylogenetic Analysis of Human Rhinovirus Isolates Collected from Otherwise Healthy Children with Community-Acquired Pneumonia during Five Successive Years 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(11):e80614.
In order to evaluate the circulation of the different human rhinovirus (HRV) species and genotypes in Italian children with radiographically confirmed community-acquired pneumonia (CAP), a nasopharyngeal swab was obtained from 643 children admitted to hospital because of CAP during five consecutive winter and early spring seasons (2007-2012). Real-time reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) was used to identify HRV, and the HRV-positive samples were used for sequencing analysis and to reconstruct the phylogenetic tree. HRV was identified in 198 samples (42.2%), and the VP4/VP2 region was successfully amplified in 151 (76.3%). HRV-A was identified in 78 samples (51.6%), HRV-B in 14 (9.3%) and HRV-C in 59 (39.1%). Forty-seven (31.1%) of the children with HRV infection were aged <1 year, 71 (47.0%) were aged 1-3 years, and 33 (21.9%) were aged ≥4 years. Blast and phylogenetic analyses showed that the HRV strains were closely related to a total of 66 reference genotypes, corresponding to 29 HRV-A, 9 HRV-B and 28 HRV-C strains. Nucleotide variability was 37% between HRV-A and HRV-B, 37.3% between HRV-A and HRV-C, and 39.9% between HRV-B and HRV-C. A number of sequences clustered with known serotypes and, within these clusters, there were strains circulating during several seasons. The most frequently detected genotypes were HRV-A78 (n=17), HRV-A12 (n=9) and HRV-C2 (n=5). This study shows that, although it is mainly associated with HRV-A, pediatric CAP can also be diagnosed in subjects infected by HRV-C and, more rarely, by HRV-B. Moreover, a large number of genotypes may be involved in causing pediatric CAP and can be different from year to year. Although the prolonged circulation of the same genotypes can sometimes be associated with a number of CAP episodes in different years.
PMCID: PMC3833952  PMID: 24260436
10.  A case of meningitis due to varicella zoster virus reactivation in an immunocompetent child 
The development of neurological complications due to varicella zoster virus (VZV) reactivation is relatively uncommon, particularly in the case of immunocompetent patients. Only a few cases have been described in the literature, most of which involved adult or elderly patients.
Clinical presentation
Two days after his pediatrician had diagnosed herpes zoster and prescribed oral acyclovir 400 mg three times a day, a 14-year-old boy was admitted to our hospital because of mild fever, severe headache, slowness, drowsiness and vomiting. A cerebrospinal fluid examination was performed and showed an increased protein concentration (95 mg/dL), normal glucose level (48 mg/dL; blood glucose level, 76 mg/dL) and lymphocytic pleocytosis (1,400 lymphocytes/μL), and VZV DNA was detected by means of polymerase chain reaction (1,250 copies/mL). The results of immunological screening for HIV, lymphocyte subpopulation counts, serum immunoglobulin and complement (C3 and C4) levels, vaccine responsiveness and lymphocytes stimulation tests were unremarkable. Acyclovir was administered intravenously at a dose of 10 mg/kg three times a day and continued for 10 days. The therapy was highly effective and the patient’s clinical condition rapidly improved: fever disappeared after two days, and all of the signs and symptoms of neurological involvement after four days. The skin lesions resolved in about one week, and no pain or dysesthesia was ever reported. Given the favourable evolution of the illness, the child was discharged without further therapy after the 10-day treatment. The findings of a magnetic resonance examination immediately after the discontinuation of the antiviral therapy were normal, and a control examination carried out about four weeks later did not find any sign or symptom of disease.
VZV reactivation can also lead to various neurological complications in immunocompetent children. Prompt therapy with acyclovir and the integrity of the immune system are important in conditioning outcome, but other currently unknown factors probably also play a role.
PMCID: PMC3832881  PMID: 24224976
Herpes zoster; Varicella; Varicella zoster virus; VZV reactivation
11.  Clinical profile of recurrent community-acquired pneumonia in children 
The aim of this case–control study was to analyse the clinical characteristics of children with recurrent community-acquired pneumonia (rCAP) affecting different lung areas (DLAs) and compare them with those of children who have never experienced CAP in order to contribute to identifying the best approach to such patients.
The study involved 146 children with ≥2 episodes of radiographically confirmed CAP in DLA in a single year (or ≥3 episodes in any time frame) with radiographic clearing of densities between occurrences, and 145 age- and gender-matched controls enrolled in Milan, Italy, between January 2009 and December 2012. The demographic and clinical characteristics of the cases and controls were compared, and a comparison was also made between the cases with rCAP (i.e. ≤3 episodes) and those with highly recurrent CAP (hrCAP: i.e. >3 episodes).
Gestational age at birth (p = 0.003), birth weight (p = 0.006), respiratory distress at birth (p < 0.001), and age when starting day care attendance (p < 0.001) were significantly different between the cases and controls, and recurrent infectious wheezing (p < 0.001), chronic rhinosinusitis with post-nasal drip (p < 0.001), recurrent upper respiratory tract infections (p < 0.001), atopy/allergy (p < 0.001) and asthma (p < 0.001) were significantly more frequent. Significant risk factors for hrCAP were gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD; p = 0.04), a history of atopy and/or allergy (p = 0.005), and a diagnosis of asthma (p = 0.0001) or middle lobe syndrome (p = 0.001). Multivariate logistic regression analysis, adjusted for age and gender, showed that all of the risk factors other than GERD and wheezing were associated with hrCAP.
The diagnostic approach to children with rCAP in DLAs is relatively easy in the developed world, where the severe chronic underlying diseases favouring rCAP are usually identified early, and patients with chronic underlying disease are diagnosed before the occurrence of rCAP in DLAs. When rCAP in DLAs does occur, an evaluation of the patients’ history and clinical findings make it possible to limit diagnostic investigations.
PMCID: PMC3852007  PMID: 24106756
Allergy; Asthma; Atopy; Children; Community-acquired pneumonia; Lower respiratory tract infection; Pneumonia; Recurrent pneumonia; Respiratory tract infection; Wheezing
12.  Subcutaneous emphysema as the first relevant clinical sign of complicated tubercular lymph node disease in a child 
BMC Infectious Diseases  2013;13:461.
Children make up a significant proportion of the global tuberculosis (TB) caseload, and experience considerable TB-related morbidity and mortality. Unfortunately, it is not easy to diagnose TB in the first years of life because of the diversity of its clinical presentation and the non-specific nature of most of its symptoms.
Case presentation
A 26-month-old male child was admitted to hospital because of the sudden onset of rapidly increasing swelling of the neck, face and upper trunk a few hours before. Upon admission, his temperature was 36.5°C, pulse rate 120/min, respiratory rate 36/min, and O2 saturation 97% in air. Palpation revealed subcutaneous emphysema (SE) over the swollen skin areas, and an examination of the respiratory system revealed crepitations in the left part of the chest without any significant suggestion of mediastinal shift. Chest radiography showed enlargement of the left lung hilum with pneumomediastinum and diffuse SE. Bronchoscopy was carried out because of the suspicion that the SE may have been due to the inhalation of a peanut. This excluded the presence of a foreign body but showed that the left main bronchus was partially obstructed with caseous material and showed significant signs of granulomatous inflammation on the wall. Contrast-enhanced computed tomography of the lungs confirmed the SE and pneumomediastinum, and revealed bilateral hilum lymph node disease with infiltration of the adjacent anatomical structure and a considerable breach in the left primary bronchus wall conditioning the passage of air in the mediastinum and subcutaneous tissue. As a tuberculin skin test and polymerase chain reaction for Mycobacterium tuberculosis on bronchial material and gastric aspirate were positive, a diagnosis of TB was made and oral anti-TB therapy was started, which led to the elimination of M. tuberculosis and a positive clinical outcome.
This is the first case in which SE was the first relevant clinical manifestation of TB and arose from infiltration of the bronchial wall secondary to caseous necrosis of the hilum lymph nodes. Physicians should be aware of the fact that SE is one of the possible initial signs and symptoms of early TB infection, and act accordingly.
PMCID: PMC3851260  PMID: 24094042
Children; Mycobacterium tuberculosis; Subcutaneous emphysema; Tuberculosis
14.  Genome Characterisation of Enteroviruses 117 and 118: A New Group within Human Enterovirus Species C 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(4):e60641.
The more than 120 genotypes of human enteroviruses (HEVs) reflect a wide range of evolutionary divergence, and there are 23 currently classified as human enterovirus C species (HEV-C). Two new HEV-C (EV-C117 and EV-C118) were identified in the Community-Acquired Pneumonia Pediatric Research Initiative (CAP-PRI) study, and the present paper describes the characterisation of the complete genome of one EV-C117 strain (LIT22) and two EV-C118 (ISR38 and ISR10) strains. The EV-C117 and EV-C118 5′UTR sequences were related to those of EV-C104, EV-C105 and EV-C109, and were slightly shorter than those of other HEV A-D species. Similarity plot analyses showed that EV-C117 and EV-C118 have a P1 region that is highly divergent from that of the other HEV-C, and phylogenetic analyses highly supported a monophyletic group consisting of EV-C117, EV-C118, EV-C104, EV-C105 and EV-C109 strains. Phylogenetic, Simplot and Bootscan analyses indicated that recombination was not the main mechanism of EV-C117 and EV-C118 evolution, thus strengthening the hypothesis of the monophyletic origin of the coding regions, as in the case of other HEV-C. Phylogenetic analysis also revealed the emergence of a new group within HEV-C that is divided into two subgroups. Nucleotide and amino acid identity in VP1 sequences have been established as useful criteria for assigning new HEV types, but analysis of the complete P1 region improves resolution.
PMCID: PMC3614900  PMID: 23565264
15.  Complete Genome Sequence of a Novel Human Enterovirus C (HEV-C117) Identified in a Child with Community-Acquired Pneumonia 
Journal of Virology  2012;86(19):10888-10889.
The new enterovirus C-117 strain belongs to the human enterovirus C species in the Picornaviridae family. We describe the characterization of the complete genome of this strain identified in a respiratory specimen of a child enrolled in the Community-Acquired Pneumonia Pediatric Research Initiative (CAP-PRI) study evaluating the etiology of community-acquired pneumonia (CAP).
PMCID: PMC3457295  PMID: 22966184
16.  Full Genome Sequence of a Novel Human Enterovirus C (EV-C118) Isolated from Two Children with Acute Otitis Media and Community-Acquired Pneumonia in Israel 
Genome Announcements  2013;1(1):e00121-12.
The new enterovirus C strain EV-C118 belongs to the human enterovirus C species of the Picornaviridae family. We report the complete genome sequence of this strain, which was identified in respiratory specimens of two children hospitalized in Israel because of acute otitis media and community-acquired pneumonia who were enrolled in the Community-Acquired Pneumonia Pediatric Research Initiative (CAP-PRI) study.
PMCID: PMC3569292  PMID: 23405305
17.  Toll-like receptor 3 gene polymorphisms and severity of pandemic A/H1N1/2009 influenza in otherwise healthy children 
Virology Journal  2012;9:270.
Toll-like receptors (TLRs) form an essential part of the innate immune system, which plays a fundamental role in rapidly and effectively controlling infections and initiating adaptive immunity. There are no published data concerning the importance of polymorphisms of TLRs in conditioning susceptibility to influenza or the severity of the disease. The aim of this study was to evaluate whether selected polymorphisms of TLR2, TLR3 and TLR4 influence the incidence and clinical picture of pandemic A/H1N1/2009 influenza.
The study involved 272 healthy children attending our Emergency Room for influenza-like illness (ILI), including 51 (18.8%) with pandemic A/H1N1/2009 influenza as revealed by real-time polymerase chain reaction, and 164 healthy controls examined after minor surgery. Genomic DNA was extracted from whole blood samples and five single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) were studied: TLR2 rs5743708, TLR3 rs5743313, TLR3 rs5743315, TLR4 rs4986790 and TLR4 rs4986791. The TLR3 rs5743313/CT polymorphism was found in all of the children with pneumonia and influenza infection, but in a significantly smaller number of those with A/H1N1/2009 influenza without pneumonia (<0.0001). TLR2, TLR3 rs5743315/AC and TLR4 polymorphisms were equally distributed in all of the groups regardless of the presence of the pandemic A/H1N1/2009 virus and clinical diagnosis. Viral load was comparable in all of the study groups.
There is a close relationship between the presence of TLR3 rs5743313/CT and an increased risk of pneumonia in children infected by the pandemic A/H1N1/2009 influenza virus.
PMCID: PMC3511245  PMID: 23151015
Children; Innate immunity; Influenza; Pandemic A/H1N1/2009 influenza virus; TLR3; Toll-like receptors
18.  Burden of paediatric influenza in Western Europe: a systematic review 
BMC Public Health  2012;12:968.
Influenza illness in children causes significant clinical and economic burden. Although some European countries have adopted influenza immunisation policies for healthy children, the debate about paediatric influenza vaccination in most countries of the European Union is ongoing. Our aim was to summarise influenza burden (in terms of health outcomes and economic burden) in children in Western Europe via a systematic literature review.
We conducted a systematic literature search of PubMed, EMBASE, and the Cochrane Library (1970-April 2011) and extracted data on influenza burden in children (defined as aged ≤ 18 years) from 50 publications (13 reporting laboratory-confirmed influenza; 37 reporting influenza-like illness).
Children with laboratory-confirmed influenza experienced hospitalisations (0.3%-20%), medical visits (1.7-2.8 visits per case), antibiotic prescriptions (7%-55%), and antipyretic or other medications for symptomatic relief (76%-99%); young children and those with severe illness had the highest rates of health care use. Influenza in children also led to absenteeism from day care, school, or work for the children, their siblings, and their parents. Average (mean or median) length of absence from school or day care associated with confirmed influenza ranged from 2.8 to 12.0 days for the children, from 1.3 to 6.0 days for their siblings, and from 1.3 to 6.3 days for their parents. Influenza negatively affected health-related quality of life in children with asthma, including symptoms and activities; this negative effect was smaller in vaccinated children than in non-vaccinated children.
Influenza burden in children is substantial and has a significant direct impact on the ill children and an indirect impact on their siblings and parents. The identified evidence regarding the burden of influenza may help inform both influenza antiviral use in children and paediatric immunisation policies in European countries.
PMCID: PMC3534559  PMID: 23146107
Influenza; Children; Vaccination; Europe; Burden
19.  Novel Human Enterovirus C Infection in Child with Community-acquired Pneumonia 
Emerging Infectious Diseases  2012;18(11):1913-1915.
PMCID: PMC3559168  PMID: 23092590
community-acquired pneumonia; pneumonia; enterovirus; enterovirus C; Picornaviridae; respiratory infection; respiratory virus; viruses; child
20.  Severe vitamin B12 deficiency in an exclusively breastfed 5-month-old Italian infant born to a mother receiving multivitamin supplementation during pregnancy 
BMC Pediatrics  2012;12:85.
In infants, vitamin B12 deficiency may be due to an inborn error of absorption and metabolism, or nutritional problems.
Case presentation
An exclusively breastfed 5-month-old Italian male infant, who was born after a normal full-term pregnancy to a vegan mother who was apparently daily treated with a multivitamin oral preparation during the second and third trimester, was hospitalised because of poor weight gain, feeding difficulties, severe pallor, muscle hypotonia and somnolence. Upon admission, his weight, length and head circumference were below the third percentile, he had an enlarged liver and spleen, and showed a significant delay in developmental milestones and communicative reactions. He had a hemoglobin level of 4.7 g/dL with an MCV of 84.2 fL, a white blood cell count of 4,680/mm3, and a platelet count of 45,000/mm3. His serum vitamin B12 level was 57 pg/mL (normal value 180–500 pg/mL) and serum folate level 12.8 ng/mL (normal value >3 ng/mL). The results of metabolic examinations excluded a cobalamin C disorder, whereas nutritional screening showed a serum iron concentration of 9 μg/dL and serum ferritin of 4 ng/mL. Magnetic resonance imaging of the brain showed mild dilatation of the lateral ventricles with diffuse delayed myelination. The child was diagnosed as having vitamin B12 and iron deficiency due to nutritional inadequacy and was immediately treated with packed red blood cells, intramuscular vitamin B12 injections, and iron supplementation. A few days after the start of therapy, his hemoglobin levels and other hematological parameters rapidly improved, and a clinical improvement was observed within few weeks. There was an increase in his achievement of developmental milestones, but his development was still retarded seven months after the start of therapy.
This case underlines the importance of adequately controlling maternal vitamin B12 intake during pregnancy by means of supplementation which, in the case of vegan mothers, should be significantly greater than that usually given. Moreover, the supplementation should be continued during lactation in order to avoid the development of signs of deficiency that may be associated with persistent neurological problems in infants. The case also highlights the need to consider vitamin B12 deficiency in infants with severe anemia even if their hematological parameters do not indicate megaloblastic anemia because the concomitant presence of substantial iron deficiency may modify the characteristics of the anemia.
PMCID: PMC3407531  PMID: 22726312
Anemia; Iron deficiency; Neurological problems; Vegan diet; Vegan mothers; Vitamin B12 deficiency
21.  Role of polymorphisms of toll-like receptor (TLR) 4, TLR9, toll-interleukin 1 receptor domain containing adaptor protein (TIRAP) and FCGR2A genes in malaria susceptibility and severity in Burundian children 
Malaria Journal  2012;11:196.
Malaria caused by Plasmodium falciparum is one of the leading causes of human morbidity and mortality from infectious diseases, predominantly in tropical and sub-tropical countries. As genetic variations in the toll-like receptors (TLRs)-signalling pathway have been associated with either susceptibility or resistance to several infectious and inflammatory diseases, the supposition is that single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) of TLR2, TLR4, TLR9, Toll-interleukin 1 receptor domain containing adaptor protein (TIRAP) and FCGR2A could modulate malaria susceptibility and severity.
This study was planned to make a further contribution to solving the problem of the real role of the most common polymorphisms of TLR4, TLR9, TIRAP and FCGR2A genes in modulating the risk of malaria and disease severity in children from Burundi, Central Africa. All the paediatric patients aged six months to 10 years admitted to the hospital of Kiremba, Burundi, between February 2011 and September 2011, for fever and suspicion of acute malaria were screened for malaria parasitaemia by light microscopy of thick and thin blood smears. In children with malaria and in uninfected controls enrolled during the study period in the same hospital, blood samples were obtained on filter paper and TLR4 Asp299Gly rs4986790, TLR9 G1174A rs352139, T-1486 C rs187084 TLR9 T-1237 C rs5743836, TIRAP Ser180Leu rs8177374 and the FCGR2A His131Arg rs1801274 polymorphisms were studied using an ABI PRISM 7900 HT Fast Real-time instrument.
A total of 602 patients and 337 controls were enrolled. Among the malaria cases, 553 (91.9 %) were considered as suffering from uncomplicated and 49 (8.1 %) from severe malaria. TLR9 T1237C rs5743836CC was associated with an increased risk of developing malaria (p = 0.03), although it was found with the same frequency in uncomplicated and severe malaria cases. No other differences were found in all alleles studied and in genotype frequencies between malaria cases and uninfected controls as well as between uncomplicated and severe malaria cases.
TLR9 T1237C seems to condition susceptibility to malaria in Burundian children but not its severity, whereas none of the assessed SNPs of TLR4, TIRAP and FCGR2A seem to influence susceptibility to malaria and disease severity in this population.
PMCID: PMC3411399  PMID: 22691414
Children; cerebral malaria; FCGR2A; malaria; SNPs; toll-like receptors; TIRAP; TLR4; TLR9; uncomplicated malaria.
22.  Antibody response of healthy children to pandemic A/H1N1/2009 influenza virus 
Virology Journal  2011;8:563.
Little is known about the proportion of pediatric pandemic A/H1N1/2009 influenza cases who showed seroconversion, the magnitude of this seroconversion, or the factors that can affect the antibody level evoked by the pandemic A/H1N1/2009 influenza. Aims of this study were to analyse antibody responses and the factors associated with high antibody titres in a cohort of children with naturally acquired A/H1N1/2009 influenza infection confirmed by reverse-transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR).
Demographic, clinical and virologic data were collected from 69 otherwise healthy children with pandemic A/H1N1/2009 influenza (27 females, mean age ± SD: 5.01 ± 4.55 years). Their antibody levels against pandemic A/H1N1/2009 and seasonal A/H1N1 influenza viruses were evaluated by measuring hemagglutination-inhibiting antibodies using standard assays. Sixty-four patients (92.8%) with pandemic A/H1N1/2009 influenza had A/H1N1/2009 antibody levels of ≥40, whereas only 28/69 (40.6%) were seroprotected against seasonal A/H1N1 influenza virus. Those who were seroprotected against seasonal A/H1N1 virus were significantly older, significantly more often hospitalised, had a diagnosis of pneumonia significantly more frequently, and were significantly more often treated with oseltamivir than those who were not seroprotected (p < 0.05). The children with the most severe disease (assessed on the basis of a need for hospitalisation and a diagnosis of pneumonia) had the highest antibody response against pandemic A/H1N1/2009 influenza virus.
Otherwise healthy children seem to show seroprotective antibody titres after natural infection with pandemic A/H1N1/2009 influenza virus. The strength of the immune response seems to be related to the severity of the disease, but not to previous seasonal A/H1N1 influenza immunity.
PMCID: PMC3274496  PMID: 22208497
Children; Immune response; Influenza; Pandemic A/H1N1/2009 influenza virus; Pediatric infectious diseases
23.  Clinical and socioeconomic impact of different types and subtypes of seasonal influenza viruses in children during influenza seasons 2007/2008 and 2008/2009 
BMC Infectious Diseases  2011;11:271.
There are few and debated data regarding possible differences in the clinical presentations of influenza A/H1N1, A/H3N2 and B viruses in children. This study evaluates the clinical presentation and socio-economic impact of laboratory-confirmed influenza A/H1N1, A/H3N2 or B infection in children attending an Emergency Room because of influenza-like illness.
Among the 4,726 children involved, 662 had influenza A (143 A/H1N1 and 519 A/H3N2) and 239 influenza B infection detected by means of real-time polymerase chain reaction. Upon enrolment, systematic recordings were made of the patients' demographic characteristics and medical history using standardised written questionnaires. The medical history of the children was re-evaluated 5-7 days after enrolment and until the resolution of their illness by means of interviews and a clinical examination by trained investigators using standardised questionnaires. During this evaluation, information was also obtained regarding illnesses and related morbidity among households.
Children infected with influenza A/H1N1 were significantly younger (mean age, 2.3 yrs) than children infected with influenza A/H3N2 (mean age, 4.7 yrs; p < 0.05)) or with influenza B (mean age, 5.2 yrs; p < 0.05). Adjusted for age and sex, children with influenza A/H3N2 in comparison with those infected by either A/H1N1 or with B influenza virus were more frequently affected by fever (p < 0.05) and lower respiratory tract involvement (p < 0.05), showed a worse clinical outcome (p < 0.05), required greater drug use (p < 0.05), and suffered a worse socio-economic impact (p < 0.05). Adjusted for age and sex, children with influenza B in comparison with those infected by A/H1N1 influenza virus had significantly higher hospitalization rates (p < 0.05), the households with a disease similar to that of the infected child (p < 0.05) and the need for additional household medical visits (p < 0.05).
Disease due to influenza A/H3N2 viral subtype is significantly more severe than that due to influenza A/H1N1 subtype and influenza B virus, which indicates that the characteristics of the different viral types and subtypes should be adequately considered by health authorities when planning preventive and therapeutic measures.
PMCID: PMC3205059  PMID: 21992699
A/H1N1 influenza virus; children; influenza; pediatrics; viral types; viral subtypes
24.  Viral shedding in children infected by pandemic A/H1N1/2009 influenza virus 
Virology Journal  2011;8:349.
The aim of this study was to investigate viral shedding in otherwise healthy children with pandemic A/H1N1/2009 influenza in order to define how long children with pandemic A/H1N1/2009 influenza shed the virus, and also plan adequate measures to control the spread of the disease within households.
In 74 otherwise healthy children with pandemic A/H1N1/2009 influenza, nasopharyngeal swabs were taken for virus detection upon hospital admission and every two days until negative. The nasopharyngeal swabs of all of the children were positive for pandemic A/H1N1/2009 influenza virus in the first three days after the onset of infection, and only 21.6% and 13.5% remained positive after respectively 11 and 15 days. No child was positive after more than 15 days. Viral load also decreased over time, and was not associated with patient age or the risk of pneumonia. Those who shed the virus for ≥ 9 days were not at any increased risk of suffering from more severe disease in comparison with those who shed the virus for a shorter time, but their households experienced a significantly higher number of influenza-like illness during the two weeks after the onset of the initial disease (72.3% vs 41.4%; p < 0.05).
Regardless of their age, healthy children can shed pandemic A/H1N1/2009 influenza virus for up to two weeks after illness onset, and the households of the children who shed the virus for ≥ 9 days suffered a higher number of influenza-like illness in the two weeks following the onset of the first disease. This could suggest that when a completely unknown influenza virus is circulating, isolation period of infected children has to be longer than the 7 days recommended for the infections due to seasonal influenza viruses.
PMCID: PMC3150308  PMID: 21752272
25.  Altered cardiac rhythm in infants with bronchiolitis and respiratory syncytial virus infection 
BMC Infectious Diseases  2010;10:305.
Although the most frequent extra-pulmonary manifestations of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) infection involve the cardiovascular system, no data regarding heart function in infants with bronchiolitis associated with RSV infection have yet been systematically collected. The aim of this study was to verify the real frequency of heart involvement in patients with bronchiolitis associated with RSV infection, and whether infants with mild or moderate disease also risk heart malfunction.
A total of 69 otherwise healthy infants aged 1-12 months with bronchiolitis hospitalised in standard wards were enrolled. Pernasal flocked swabs were performed to collect specimens for the detection of RSV by real-time polymerase chain reaction, and a blood sample was drawn to assess troponin I concentrations. On the day of admission, all of the infants underwent 24-hour Holter ECG monitoring and a complete heart evaluation with echocardiography. Patients were re-evaluated by investigators blinded to the etiological and cardiac findings four weeks after enrolment.
Regardless of their clinical presentation, sinoatrial blocks were identified in 26/34 RSV-positive patients (76.5%) and 1/35 RSV-negative patients (2.9%) (p < 0.0001). The blocks recurred more than three times over 24 hours in 25/26 RSV-positive patients (96.2%) and none of the RSV-negative infants. Mean and maximum heart rates were significantly higher in the RSV-positive infants (p < 0.05), as was low-frequency power and the low and high-frequency power ratio (p < 0.05). The blocks were significantly more frequent in the children with an RSV load of ≥100,000 copies/mL than in those with a lower viral load (p < 0.0001). Holter ECG after 28 ± 3 days showed the complete regression of the heart abnormalities.
RSV seems associated with sinoatrial blocks and transient rhythm alterations even when the related respiratory problems are mild or moderate. Further studies are needed to clarify the mechanisms of these rhythm problems and whether they remain asymptomatic and transient even in presence of severe respiratory involvement or chronic underlying disease.
PMCID: PMC2987303  PMID: 20969802

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