Scientists have identified the genetic signature of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), the leading cause of infant hospitalizations around the world. The work is a key step toward a better understanding of the immune response to RSV, which will aid the development of a vaccine and a tool that could allow physicians to determine the severity of the infection when symptoms first develop. The study, from a team at The Research Institute at Nationwide Children's Hospital, was published this week in PLOS Medicine.
The World Health Organization estimates that as many as 64 million children worldwide are infected with RSV at any given time. Although most infections result in mild, cold- or flu-like symptoms, RSV can lead to pneumonia or bronchiolitis, landing more than 144,000 infants and children in the hospital each year in the U.S. alone.
"Despite the disease burden, there is no approved vaccine and it is impossible to predict which patients will go on to develop more serious symptoms and require hospitalization," says Asuncion Mejias, MD, PhD, principal investigator in the Center for Vaccines and Immunity at Nationwide Children's and a co-lead author of the new study. "The ability to identify which patients are at risk for severe RSV disease when they first present for treatment would enable physicians to better triage patients, providing early and more targeted interventions."
One of the chief obstacles of managing infants with RSV infection is the lack of a diagnostic tool to predict which patients will develop a more severe illness that requires more aggressive interventions. For this study, Dr. Mejias and colleagues compared the RNA profilesalso called biosignaturesfrom 220 children under 2 years of age who were either healthy or hospitalized with RSV or other respiratory viruses such as influenza or human rhinovirus, which causes the common cold but can also cause bronchiolitis.
They found that in patients with R
|Contact: Gina Bericchia|
Nationwide Children's Hospital