Respiratory Syncytial Virus

Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is an enveloped, negative-sense, single-stranded RNA virus. It belongs to the genus Pneumovirus, subfamily Pneumovirinae and is a member of the Paramyxoviridae family of viruses. Human RSV is a widespread virus that causes more than 30 million new cases of RSV infection each year. Two major antigenic groups of human respiratory syncytial virus have been identified, which are classified as subtypes A and B, with additional antigenic variability existing within each subtype. Both A and B subtypes co-circulate but reports suggest that one subtype dominates during an epidemic 1 ( Sullender, WM).

RSV primarily causes lower respiratory tract infection in infants and young children. In many cases, the virus causes a mild respiratory illness but pneumonia and bronchiolitis can develop in children under 2 years of age and in elderly patients. In addition, children with pre-existing heart, lung and neuromuscular diseases can also be at risk of developing severe RSV infection resulting in hospitalisation. In older patients, severe RSV infection may exacerbate pre-existing conditions such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease 2 (CDC).

Treatment of severe RSV infection varies but may involve the use of steroids, antibiotics, or antiviral therapy. Monoclonal antibody therapy is available for the prophylactic treatment of specific high-risk cases but treatment is expensive and therefore limited 3 (Turner, TL et al). An effective vaccine for RSV is not currently available but several potential candidates are currently under investigation 4 (WHO).

References

  1. Sullender, WM (2000). Respiratory syncytial virus genetic and antigenic diversity. Clin Microbiol Rev. 13:1-15.

 

  1. Centers for disease control: Respiratory syncytial virus infection (RSV)

 

  1. Turner, TL et al (2014). Respiratory syncytial virus: current and emerging treatment options. Clinicoecon Outcomes Res.6: 217–225.

 

  1. WHO Consultation on respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) vaccine development

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