Molecular dissection of respiratory syncytial virus infection

A study published this week in PLOS Medicine reveals profound systemic dysregulation of the immune response induced by RSV infection in young children and suggest that molecular markers might be able to predict disease severity.

RSV is responsible for a substantial fraction of serious respiratory infections and deaths among worldwide and a top candidate for vaccine development.

A team of researchers led by Asuncion Mejias and Octavio Ramilo, both from The Research Institute at Nationwide Children's Hospital, and The Ohio State University College of Medicine, examined the global gene expression patterns in blood samples from four different cohorts of children who were hospitalized with infections.

They found that children who are ill with RSV infections have a characteristic gene expression pattern that is different not only from healthy children but also from children infected with either influenza virus or human rhinovirus, two other common causes of lower respiratory tract disease.

This pattern, which the researchers called the RSV biosignature, could reliably identify children with RSV infections in different settings. From it, they derived a genomic "severity score" that correlated with clinical indices of disease severity, and with length of hospitalization and need for supplemental oxygen.

The RSV biosignature also provided insights into the status of the immune system in the sick children: RSV infection was associated with elevated levels of some inflammation genes as well as suppression of non-specific immune system genes and reduced expression of specific B and T cell genes. This was particularly evident in infants under 6 months of age.

The authors conclude that "Blood RNA profiles of infants with RSV lower allow specific diagnosis, better understanding of disease pathogenesis, and assessment of " and say their study "opens new avenues for biomarker discovery and identification of potential therapeutic or preventive targets."

In an accompanying Perspective, Peter Openshaw agrees that "this study moves the field several steps towards the clinical use of transcriptomic profiling in the diagnosis and prognostication of children with " but also cautions that "the peripheral blood may not be telling the whole story and needs to be complemented by detailed studies of the response in the respiratory tract".

More information: Mejias A, Dimo B, Suarez NM, Garcia C, Suarez-Arrabal MC, et al. (2013) Whole Blood Gene Expression Profiles to Assess Pathogenesis and Disease Severity in Infants with Respiratory Syncytial Virus Infection. PLoS Med 10(11): e1001549. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1001549

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Infants with severe RSV disease may be immunosuppressed

Dec 10, 2012

Infants with severe lower respiratory tract infection caused by respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) may have a dysfunctional innate immune response that relates to the severity of their disease. These are the findings from ...

More children need medical help for RSV than previously known

Feb 04, 2009

More than 2 million children with Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) are seen in hospitals, emergency rooms and doctors' offices in the United States every year -- many more than doctors know. In fact, only 3 percent of children ...

Recommended for you

Ebola mistakes should serve a lesson says WHO

4 hours ago

The World Health Organization's chief admitted on Sunday that the UN agency had been caught napping on Ebola, saying it should serve as a lesson to avoid similar mistakes in future.

British Ebola nurse discharged from hospital

11 hours ago

A British nurse who contracted Ebola while working as a volunteer in Sierra Leone said she was "happy to be alive" as she was discharged from hospital on Saturday having made a full recovery.

Tide turning in Ebola fight after hard lessons

Jan 24, 2015

A top U.N. official in the fight against Ebola greeted just three patients at one treatment center he visited this week in Sierra Leone. Families in Liberia are no longer required to cremate the remains of ...

Just five Ebola cases left in Liberia: UN

Jan 24, 2015

The United Nations said on Saturday Liberia was dealing with just five remaining cases of Ebola, in the clearest sign yet that the country is nearing the end of the outbreak.

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.