Molecular dissection of respiratory syncytial virus infection

November 12, 2013

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".

Explore further: Infants with severe RSV disease may be immunosuppressed

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

Related Stories

Infants with severe RSV disease may be immunosuppressed

December 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 ...

Research suggests transmission of respiratory viruses in utero

April 18, 2013
The most common cause of lower respiratory tract infections in infants and young children, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), can be transferred during pregnancy to an unborn baby, according to Cleveland Clinic Children's ...

New study finds maternal diet important predictor of severity for infant RSV

March 4, 2013
An important predictor of the severity of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) in infants may be what their mothers ate during pregnancy, according to a Vanderbilt study published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical ...

Study offers clues to making vaccine for infant respiratory illness

April 25, 2013
An atomic-level snapshot of a respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) protein bound to a human antibody represents a leap toward developing a vaccine for a common—and sometimes very serious—childhood disease. The findings, ...

One step closer to vaccine for common respiratory disease

June 17, 2013
Young children and the elderly are especially susceptible to respiratory syncytial virus. The three-dimensional structure of respiratory syncytial virus has been solved by an international team from Finland and Switzerland.

Recommended for you

Newly discovered viral marker could help predict flu severity in infected patients

October 20, 2017
Flu viruses contain defective genetic material that may activate the immune system in infected patients, and new research published in PLOS Pathogens suggests that lower levels of these molecules could increase flu severity.

H7N9 influenza is both lethal and transmissible in animal model for flu

October 19, 2017
In 2013, an influenza virus that had never before been detected began circulating among poultry in China. It caused several waves of human infection and in late 2016, the number of people to become sick from the H7N9 virus ...

Flu simulations suggest pandemics more likely in spring, early summer

October 19, 2017
New statistical simulations suggest that Northern Hemisphere flu pandemics are most likely to emerge in late spring or early summer at the tail end of the normal flu season, according to a new study published in PLOS Computational ...

New insights into herpes virus could inform vaccine development

October 18, 2017
A team of scientists has discovered new insights into the mechanisms of Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) infection, as well as two antibodies that block the virus' entry into cells. The findings, published in Proceedings of the National ...

Pair of discoveries illuminate new paths to flu and anthrax treatments

October 17, 2017
Two recent studies led by biologists at the University of California San Diego have set the research groundwork for new avenues to treat influenza and anthrax poisoning.

Portable 3-D scanner assesses patients with elephantiasis

October 17, 2017
An estimated 120 million people worldwide are infected with lymphatic filariasis, a parasitic, mosquito-borne disease that can cause major swelling and deformity of the legs, a condition known as elephantiasis. Health-care ...

0 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.