Article Text

Download PDFPDF

Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV): a scourge from infancy to old age
  1. James Andrew Coultas1,
  2. Rosalind Smyth2,
  3. Peter J Openshaw1
  1. 1 National Heart and Lung Division, Imperial College, London, UK
  2. 2 Director of the Insitute and Professor of Child Health, Great Ormond Street Institute for Child Health, UCL, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Prof Rosalind Smyth, Great Ormond Street Institute for Child Health, UCL, London EH16 4TJ, UK; rosalind.smyth{at}


Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is the most common single cause of respiratory hospitalisation of infants and is the second largest cause of lower respiratory infection mortality worldwide. In adults, RSV is an under-recognised cause of deterioration in health, particularly in frail elderly persons. Infection rates typically rise in late autumn and early winter causing bronchiolitis in infants, common colds in adults and insidious respiratory illness in the elderly. Virus detection methods optimised for use in children have low detection rate in adults, highlighting the need for better diagnostic tests. There are many vaccines under development, mostly based on the surface glycoprotein F which exists in two conformations (prefusion and postfusion). Much of the neutralising antibody appears to be to the prefusion form. Vaccines being developed include live attenuated, subunit, particle based and live vectored agents. Different vaccine strategies may be appropriate for different target populations: at-risk infants, school-age children, adult caregivers and the elderly. Antiviral drugs are in clinical trial and may find a place in disease management. RSV disease is one of the major remaining common tractable challenges in infectious diseases and the era of vaccines and antivirals for RSV is on the near horizon.

  • viral infection
  • innate immunity
  • paediatric lung disaese
  • copd exacerbations
View Full Text

Statistics from


  • Contributors All authors contributed to the conception, literature review, writing and revision of this manuscript.This work was supported by NIHR.

  • Funding This work was supported by NIHR.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.