Systematic review of influenza A (H1N1)pdm09 virus shedding: duration is affected by severity but not age

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Fielding JE, Kelly HA, Mercer GN, Glass K (2014) Systematic review of influenza A (H1N1)pdm09 virus shedding: duration is affected by severity but not age. Influenza and Other Respiratory Viruses DOI: 10.1111/irv.12216.


Duration of viral shedding following infection is an important determinant of disease transmission, informing both control policies and disease modelling. We undertook a systematic literature review of the duration of influenza A(H1N1)pdm09 virus shedding to examine the effects of age, severity of illness and receipt of antiviral treatment. Studies were identified by searching the PubMed database using the keywords ‘H1N1’, ‘pandemic’, ‘pandemics’, ‘shed’ and ‘shedding’. Any study of humans with an outcome measure of viral shedding was eligible for inclusion in the review. Comparisons by age, degree of severity and antiviral treatment were made with forest plots. The search returned 214 articles of which 22 were eligible for the review. Significant statistical heterogeneity between studies precluded meta-analysis. The mean duration of viral shedding generally increased with severity of clinical presentation, but we found no evidence of longer shedding duration of influenza A(H1N1)pdm09 among children compared with adults. Shorter viral shedding duration was observed when oseltamivir treatment was administered within 48 hours of illness onset. Considerable differences in the design and analysis of viral shedding studies limit their comparison and highlight the need for a standardised approach. These insights have implications not only for pandemic planning, but also for informing responses and study of seasonal influenza now that the A(H1N1)pdm09 virus has become established as the seasonal H1N1 influenza virus.