Viral Pneumonitis Is Increased in Obese Patients during the First Wave of Pandemic A(H1N1) 2009 Virus

Jen Kok*, Christopher C. Blyth, Hong Foo, Michael J. Bailey, David V. Pilcher, Steven A. Webb, Ian M. Seppelt, Dominic E. Dwyer, Jonathan R. Iredell

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    20 Citations (Scopus)
    17 Downloads (Pure)


    Introduction: There is conflicting data as to whether obesity is an independent risk factor for mortality in severe pandemic (H1N1) 2009 influenza (A(H1N1)pdm09). It is postulated that excess inflammation and cytokine production in obese patients following severe influenza infection leads to viral pneumonitis and/or acute respiratory distress syndrome. Methods: Demographic, laboratory and clinical data prospectively collected from obese and non-obese patients admitted to nine adult Australian intensive care units (ICU) during the first A(H1N1)pdm09 wave, supplemented with retrospectively collected data, were compared. Results: Of 173 patients, 100 (57.8%), 73 (42.2%) and 23 (13.3%) had body mass index (BMI) <30 kg/m2, ≥30 kg/m2 (obese) and ≥40 kg/m2 (morbidly obese) respectively. Compared to non-obese patients, obese patients were younger (mean age 43.4 vs. 48.4 years, p = 0.035) and more likely to develop pneumonitis (61% vs. 44%, p = 0.029). Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation use was greater in morbidly obese compared to non-obese patients (17.4% vs. 4.7%, p = 0.04). Higher mortality rates were observed in non-obese compared to obese patients, but not after adjusting for severity of disease. C-reactive protein (CRP) levels and hospital length of stay (LOS) were similar. Amongst ICU survivors, obese patients had longer ICU LOS (median 11.9 vs. 6.8 days, p = 0.017). Similar trends were observed when only patients infected with A(H1N1)pdm09 were examined. Conclusions: Among patients admitted to ICU during the first wave of A(H1N1)pdm09, obese and morbidly obese patients with severe infection were more likely to develop pneumonitis compared to non-obese patients, but mortality rates were not increased. CRP is not an accurate marker of pneumonitis.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article numbere55631
    Pages (from-to)1-9
    Number of pages9
    JournalPLoS ONE
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 13 Feb 2013

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