Pediatric Respiratory
Last updated: June 29, 2024
sonia menon author blog photo epitech research

Sonia Menon




Adding additional specimen types (eg, serology or sputum) to nasopharyngeal swab (NPS) reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) increases respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) detection among adults. We assessed if a similar increase occurs in children and quantified underascertainment associated with diagnostic testing.


We searched databases for studies involving RSV detection in persons <18 years using ≥2 specimen types or tests. We assessed study quality using a validated checklist. We pooled detection rates by specimen and diagnostic tests and quantified performance.


We included 157 studies. Added testing of additional specimens to NP aspirate (NPA), NPS, and/or nasal swab (NS) RT-PCR resulted in statistically nonsignificant increases in RSV detection. Adding paired serology testing increased RSV detection by 10%, NS by 8%, oropharyngeal swabs by 5%, and NPS by 1%. Compared to RT-PCR, direct fluorescence antibody tests, viral culture, and rapid antigen tests were 87%, 76%, and 74% sensitive, respectively (pooled specificities all ≥98%). Pooled sensitivity of multiplex versus singleplex RT-PCR was 96%.


RT-PCR was the most sensitive pediatric RSV diagnostic test. Adding multiple specimens did not substantially increase RSV detection, but even small proportional increases could result in meaningful changes in burden estimates. The synergistic effect of adding multiple specimens should be evaluated.