Impact of HIV on the burden and severity of influenza illness in Malawian adults: a prospective cohort and parallel case-control study.


Ho A, Aston S, Jary H, Mitchell T, Alaerts M, Menyere M, Mallewa J, Nyirenda M, Everett D, Heyderman RS, French N.


The impact of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection on influenza incidence and severity in adults in sub-Saharan Africa is unclear. Seasonal influenza vaccination is recommended for HIV-infected persons in developed settings but is rarely implemented in Africa.


We conducted a prospective cohort study to compare the incidence of laboratory-confirmed influenza illness between HIV-infected and HIV-uninfected adults in Blantyre, Malawi. In a parallel case-control study, we explored risk factors for severe influenza presentation of severe (hospitalized) lower respiratory tract infection, and mild influenza (influenza-like illness [ILI]).


The cohort study enrolled 608 adults, of whom 360 (59%) were HIV infected. Between April 2013 and March 2015, 24 of 229 ILI episodes (10.5%) in HIV-infected and 5 of 119 (4.2%) in HIV-uninfected adults were positive for influenza by means of polymerase chain reaction (incidence rate, 46.0 vs 14.5 per 1000 person-years; incidence rate ratio, 2.75; 95% confidence interval, 1.02-7.44; P = .03; adjusted for age, sex, household crowding, and food security). In the case-control study, influenza was identified in 56 of 518 patients (10.8%) with hospitalized lower respiratory tract infection, and 88 or 642 (13.7%) with ILI. The HIV prevalence was 69.6% and 29.6%, respectively, among influenza-positive case patients and controls. HIV was a significant risk factor for severe influenza (odds ratio, 4.98; 95% confidence interval, 2.09-11.88; P < .001; population-attributable fraction, 57%; adjusted for season, sanitation facility, and food security).


HIV is an important risk factor for influenza-associated ILI and severe presentation in this high-HIV prevalence African setting. Targeted influenza vaccination of HIV-infected African adults should be reevaluated, and the optimal mechanism for vaccine introduction in overstretched health systems needs to be determined.


Clin Infect Dis