First results in using new tools to tackle respiratory syncytial virus

Each year, an estimated 101,000 children below the age of 5 years die across the globe due to infections caused by respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). Worldwide, RSV is a main cause of hospitalisation among young children.

It took more than 60 years to develop and approve vaccines against RSV that can now be used to immunise both elderly people and pregnant women in the European Union (EU). In addition, a long-acting monoclonal antibody (nirsevimab) was licensed in the EU for use in infants end of 2022. Both events marked a milestone in the attempt to prevent RSV infections especially in very young children.

In an editorial in Eurosurveillance, Eeva Broberg and Hanna Nohynek look at these recent advances and which supporting measures might be needed to understand the actual burden of RSV, its annual circulation patterns and genomic evolution.

For that understanding to improve, Broberg and Nohynek argue that “sequencing data need to be collected and reported to publicly accessible databases. As for other respiratory viruses and most infectious diseases, under-ascertainment will remain an issue for RSV surveillance in general as patients may present late for testing after the infection or not even be tested if they present with mild symptoms.”