The familial risk of infection-related hospitalization in children: A population-based sibling study

Jessica E. Miller, Kim W. Carter, Nicholas de Klerk, David P. Burgner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


OBJECTIVE: To assess the risk of severe childhood infections within families, we conducted a sibling analysis in a population-based cohort study with genealogical linkage. We investigated the sibling risk of hospitalization with common infections, a marker of severity. We hypothesized that having siblings hospitalized for infection would increase the proband's risk of admission with infection. STUDY DESIGN: We used population data on Western Australian live-born singletons and their siblings between 1980 and 2014. Measures of infection were infection-related hospitalizations from discharge diagnostic codes. Exposure was having a sibling who had an infection-related hospitalization. Outcomes were infection-related hospitalizations in the child/proband. Probands were followed until an infection-related hospitalization admission (up to the first three), death, 18th birthday, or end of 2014, whichever occurred first. Infection risks were estimated by adjusted Cox proportional hazard models for multiple events. RESULTS: Of 512,279 probands, 142,915 (27.9%) had infection-related hospitalizations; 133,322 (26.0%) had a sibling with a previous infection-related hospitalization (i.e. exposed). Median interval between sibling and proband infection-related hospitalizations was 1.4 years (inter-quartile range 0.5-3.7). Probands had a dose-dependent increase in risk if sibling/s had 1, 2, or 3+ infection-related hospitalizations (adjusted hazard ratio, aHR 1.41, 95% CI 1.39-1.43; aHR 1.65, 1.61-1.69; aHR 1.83, 1.77-1.90, respectively). Among siblings with the same clinical infection type, highest sibling risks were for genitourinary (aHR 2.06, 1.68-2.53), gastrointestinal (aHR 2.07, 1.94-2.19), and skin/soft tissue infections (aHR 2.34, 2.15-2.54). Overall risk of infection-related hospitalization was higher in children with more siblings and with older siblings. CONCLUSION: In this population-based study, we observed an increased risk of infection-related hospitalization in children whose siblings were previously hospitalized for infection. Public health interventions may be particularly relevant in families of children hospitalized with infection.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0250181
Pages (from-to)e0250181
JournalPLoS One
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2021


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