Global Health

November 14, 2019

RSV transmission in the Middle East

Understanding how RSV is transmitted, which strains dominate and how new strains emerge around the globe will guide better vaccine and anti-viral drug design.

Human respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is a primary cause of lower respiratory tract infections among young children worldwide, and leads to 60,000 deaths globally each year. A vaccine does not yet exist, although several candidates are in development.

Better vaccine and anti-viral drug design requires understanding how RSV is transmitted, including which strains dominate in a given season and how new strains emerge. Natasha Halasa, MD, MPH, Suman Das, PhD, and colleagues performed whole-genome sequencing on samples acquired between 2010 and 2013 in a pediatric cohort in Amman, Jordan.

They found that two virus subgroups, RSVA and RSVB, co-circulated in this region, although one subgroup was dominant each year. They also found that new introductions of RSVA spread more widely between city regions than RSVB, and that RSVA seemed to cause less severe disease.

This work, published in Microbial Genomics, provides valuable insight into RSV transmission dynamics in the Middle East, an under-studied region, and indicates that future vaccines should be formulated to include representative strains from both RSV subgroups.

This research was supported by the UBS Optimus Foundation and by the National Institutes of Health (grants TR000445, AI110819, AI110527).