Severe influenza: Overview in critically ill patients

Cristina Sarda, Pedro Palma, Jordi Rello

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Purpose of reviewOverview of influenza infection, focusing on outcome and complications in critically ill patients. We also discuss relevant elements in immunopathogenesis and their role as predictors of severity.Recent findingsPandemic influenza A (H1N1) virus circulates seasonally and remains the predominant subtype among intensive care patients. Mortality in acute respiratory failure (ARF) is around 20%, independent of influenza subtypes. During severe infection, the imbalance between pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory molecules, such as Th1 and Th17 cytokines, is associated with complicated infections and mortality. Primary viral pneumonia presents in more than 70% of ICU influenza patients and more than 50% develop acute respiratory distress syndrome. Bacterial secondary infection occurs in 20% of severe cases and Streptococcus pneumoniae and Staphylococcus aureus remain the prevalent pathogens. Myocarditis and late-onset cardiovascular complications are associated with mortality. Antiviral therapy within 48 h after onset, avoidance of corticosteroids and rescue therapies for ARF or myocarditis, such as extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, improve survival.SummaryThe present review summarizes current knowledge on pathogenesis and clinical manifestations of severe influenza. Immunological dysfunction during viral infection correlates with severity and mortality among ICU patients. A theranostics strategy should be implemented to improve outcomes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)449-457
Number of pages9
JournalCurrent Opinion in Critical Care
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Oct 1 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • acute respiratory failure
  • myocarditis
  • primary viral pneumonia
  • secondary pneumonia
  • severe acute respiratory infection

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine


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