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Respiratory diseases are a major contributor to morbidity and mortality in many tropical countries, including Lao PDR. However, little has been published regarding viral or bacterial pathogens that can contribute to influenza-like illness (ILI) in a community setting. We report on the results of a community-based surveillance that prospectively monitored the incidence of ILI and its causative pathogens in Vientiane capital in Lao PDR. A cohort of 995 households, including 4885 study participants, were followed-up between May 2015 and May 2016. Nasopharyngeal swabs, throat swabs, and sputum specimens were collected from ILI cases identified through active case-finding. Real-Time PCR was used to test nasopharyngeal swabs for 21 respiratory pathogens, while throat and sputum samples were subjected to bacterial culture. Generalized linear mixed models were used to assess potential risk factors for associations with ILI. In total, 548 episodes of ILI were reported among 476 (9.7%) of the study participants and 330 (33.2%) of the study households. The adjusted estimated incidence of ILI within the study area was 10.7 (95%CI: 9.4-11.9) episodes per 100 person-years. ILI was significantly associated with age group (p<0.001), sex (p<0.001), and number of bedrooms (p = 0.04) in multivariate analysis. In 548 nasopharyngeal swabs, the most commonly detected potential pathogens were Streptococcus pneumoniae (17.0%), Staphylococcus aureus (11.3%), influenza A (11.1%; mostly subtype H3N2), rhinovirus (7.5%), and influenza B (8.0%). Streptococci were isolated from 42 (8.6%) of 536 throat swabs, most (27) of which were Lancefield Group G. Co-infections were observed in 132 (24.1%) of the 548 ILI episodes. Our study generated valuable data on respiratory disease burden and patterns of etiologies associated with community-acquired acute respiratory illness Laos. Establishment of a surveillance strategy in Laos to monitor trends in the epidemiology and burden of acute respiratory infections is required to minimize their impact on human health.

Original publication





PloS one

Publication Date





Communicable Diseases Policy Research Group, Department of Global Health and Development, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, United Kingdom; Faculty of Public Health, Mahidol University, Bangkok, Thailand.


Pharynx, Humans, Rhinovirus, Respiratory Tract Infections, Cohort Studies, Family Characteristics, Adolescent, Adult, Middle Aged, Child, Child, Preschool, Infant, Laos, Female, Male, Influenza, Human, Influenza A Virus, H3N2 Subtype, Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction