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

Mali doctor dies of Ebola, taking toll up to seven

45 minutes ago

A doctor in Mali died of Ebola on Thursday after treating an imam who succumbed to the disease, taking the total toll in the west African country up to seven, health authorities said.

Breakthrough in managing yellow fever disease

4 hours ago

Yellow fever is a disease that can result in symptoms ranging from fever to severe liver damage. Found in South America and sub-Saharan Africa, each year the disease results in 200,000 new cases and kills ...

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.