Viral DNAemia and DNA Virus Seropositivity and Mortality in Pediatric Sepsis

Stephanie S. Cabler, Gregory A. Storch, Jason B. Weinberg, Andrew H. Walton, Karen Brengel-Pesce, Zachary Aldewereld, Russell K. Banks, Valerie Cheynet, Ron Reeder, Richard Holubkov, Robert A. Berg, David Wessel, Murray M. Pollack, Kathleen Meert, Mark Hall, Christopher Newth, John C. Lin, Tim Cornell, Rick E. Harrison, J. Michael DeanJoseph A. Carcillo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Importance: Sepsis is a leading cause of pediatric mortality. Little attention has been paid to the association between viral DNA and mortality in children and adolescents with sepsis. Objective: To assess the association of the presence of viral DNA with sepsis-related mortality in a large multicenter study. Design, Setting, and Participants: This cohort study compares pediatric patients with and without plasma cytomegalovirus (CMV), Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV-1), human herpesvirus 6 (HHV-6), parvovirus B19 (B19V), BK polyomavirus (BKPyV), human adenovirus (HAdV), and torque teno virus (TTV) DNAemia detected by quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction or plasma IgG antibodies to CMV, EBV, HSV-1, or HHV-6. A total of 401 patients younger than 18 years with severe sepsis were enrolled from 9 pediatric intensive care units (PICUs) in the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Collaborative Pediatric Critical Care Research Network. Data were collected from 2015 to 2018. Samples were assayed from 2019 to 2022. Data were analyzed from 2022 to 2023. Main Outcomes and Measures: Death while in the PICU. Results: Among the 401 patients included in the analysis, the median age was 6 (IQR, 1-12) years, and 222 (55.4%) were male. One hundred fifty-four patients (38.4%) were previously healthy, 108 (26.9%) were immunocompromised, and 225 (56.1%) had documented infection(s) at enrollment. Forty-four patients (11.0%) died in the PICU. Viral DNAemia with at least 1 virus (excluding TTV) was detected in 191 patients (47.6%) overall, 63 of 108 patients (58.3%) who were immunocompromised, and 128 of 293 (43.7%) who were not immunocompromised at sepsis onset. After adjustment for age, Pediatric Risk of Mortality score, previously healthy status, and immunocompromised status at sepsis onset, CMV (adjusted odds ratio [AOR], 3.01 [95% CI, 1.36-6.45]; P =.007), HAdV (AOR, 3.50 [95% CI, 1.46-8.09]; P =.006), BKPyV (AOR. 3.02 [95% CI, 1.17-7.34]; P =.02), and HHV-6 (AOR, 2.62 [95% CI, 1.31-5.20]; P =.007) DNAemia were each associated with increased mortality. Two or more viruses were detected in 78 patients (19.5%), with mortality among 12 of 32 (37.5%) who were immunocompromised and 9 of 46 (19.6%) who were not immunocompromised at sepsis onset. Herpesvirus seropositivity was common (HSV-1, 82 of 246 [33.3%]; CMV, 107 of 254 [42.1%]; EBV, 152 of 251 [60.6%]; HHV-6, 253 if 257 [98.4%]). After additional adjustment for receipt of blood products in the PICU, EBV seropositivity was associated with increased mortality (AOR, 6.10 [95% CI, 1.00-118.61]; P =.049). Conclusions and Relevance: The findings of this cohort study suggest that DNAemia for CMV, HAdV, BKPyV, and HHV-6 and EBV seropositivity were independently associated with increased sepsis mortality. Further investigation of the underlying biology of these viral DNA infections in children with sepsis is warranted to determine whether they only reflect mortality risk or contribute to mortality.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)E240383
JournalJAMA Network Open
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 26 2024


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