Epidemiology of severe acute respiratory illness and risk factors for influenza infection and clinical severity among adults in Malawi, 2011-2013

Antonia Ho, Jane Mallewa, Ingrid Peterson, Miguel San Joaquin, Shikha Garg, Naor Bar-Zeev, Mavis Menyere, Maaike Alaerts, Gugulethu Mapurisa, Moses Chilombe, Mulinda Nyirenda, David G. Lalloo, Camilla Rothe, Marc Alain Widdowson, Meredith McMorrow, Neil French, Dean Everett, Robert S. Heyderman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Data on the epidemiology of severe acute respiratory illness (SARI) in adults from low-income, high human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) prevalence African settings are scarce. We conducted adult SARI surveillance in Blantyre, Malawi. From January 2011 to December 2013, individuals aged ≥ 15 years with SARI (both inpatients and outpatients) were enrolled at a large teaching hospital in Blantyre, Malawi. Nasopharyngeal aspirates were tested for influenza and other respiratory viruses by polymerase chain reaction. We estimated hospital-attended influenza-positive SARI incidence rates and assessed factors associated with influenza positivity and clinical severity (Modified Early Warning Score > 4). We enrolled 1, 126 SARI cases; 163 (14.5%) were positive for influenza. Human immunodeficiency virus prevalence was 50.3%. Annual incidence of hospital-attended influenza-associated SARI was 9.7-16.8 cases per 100,000 population. Human immunodeficiency virus was associated with a 5-fold greater incidence (incidence rate ratio 4.91, 95% confidence interval [CI]: 3.83-6.32). Onmultivariable analysis, female gender, as well as recruitment in hot, rainy season (December to March; adjusted odds ratios (aOR): 2.82, 95% CI: 1.57-5.06) and cool, dry season (April to August; a OR: 2.47, 95% CI: 1.35-4.15), was associated with influenza positivity, whereas influenza-positive patients were less likely to be HIV-infected (aOR: 0.59, 95% CI: 0.43-0.80) or have viral coinfection (aOR: 0.51, 95% CI: 0.36-0.73). Human immunodeficiency virus infection (aOR: 1.86; 95% CI: 1.35-2.56) and recruitment inhot, rainy season (aOR: 4.98, 95% CI: 3.17-7.81) were independently associated with clinical severity. In this high HIV prevalence population, influenza was associated with nearly 15% of hospital-attended SARI. Human immunodeficiency virus infection is an important risk factor for clinical severity in all-cause and influenza-associated SARI. Expanded access to HIV testing and antiretroviral treatment, as well as targeted influenza vaccination, may reduce the burden of SARI in Malawi and other high HIV prevalence settings.

Original languageBritish English
Pages (from-to)772-779
Number of pages8
JournalAmerican Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2018


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