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Pre-emptive oral ribavirin therapy of paramyxovirus infections after haematopoietic stem cell transplantation: a pilot study.

Infections with the paramyxoviruses, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and parainfluenza virus (PIV) can result in serious morbidity and mortality after haemopoietic stem cell transplant (HSCT). Once pneumonia develops, the outcome of these infections is often poor despite anti-viral therapy. Aerosolised ribavirin has been evaluated as pre-emptive therapy for post-transplant RSV infections with some success. Due to the financial and logistic burden involved with the use of aerosolised ribavirin, we explored the efficacy and toxicity of oral ribavirin for pre-emptive therapy of post-transplant RSV and PIV infections in a dose escalating schedule (15-60 mg/kg/day). Five episodes each of RSV and PIV were treated in seven patients. Five patients were receiving treatment for GVHD and two acquired the infection in the pre-engraftment period. All the episodes of RSV infection improved with oral ribavirin with dose escalation to 30-45 mg/kg in three of them. On the other hand, only two of the five PIV infections improved with oral ribavirin. Of the three non-responders, two infections were acquired in the pre-engraftment period with one death from PIV pneumonia. Reversible anaemia was the only side-effect noted in patients treated for over 2 weeks. Thus, the use of oral ribavirin was well tolerated in the post-transplant period with no untoward toxicities. There was a trend towards better response in RSV infections, which needs to be further explored in controlled studies.

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