Jump to Main Content
Progress in understanding and controlling respiratory syncytial virus: Still crazy after all these years
- Collins, Peter L., Melero, José A.
- Virus research 2011 v.162 no.1-2 pp. 80-99
- Human respiratory syncytial virus, RNA, antiviral agents, cytokines, elderly, genes, glycoproteins, glycosylation, immune response, infants, interferons, neutralizing antibodies, pathogenesis, pathogens, respiratory tract diseases, vaccines, viruses
- Human respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is a ubiquitous pathogen that infects everyone worldwide early in life and is a leading cause of severe lower respiratory tract disease in the pediatric population as well as in the elderly and in profoundly immunosuppressed individuals. RSV is an enveloped, nonsegmented negative-sense RNA virus that is classified in Family Paramyxoviridae and is one of its more complex members. Although the replicative cycle of RSV follows the general pattern of the Paramyxoviridae, it encodes additional proteins. Two of these (NS1 and NS2) inhibit the host type I and type III interferon (IFN) responses, among other functions, and another gene encodes two novel RNA synthesis factors (M2-1 and M2-2). The attachment (G) glycoprotein also exhibits unusual features, such as high sequence variability, extensive glycosylation, cytokine mimicry, and a shed form that helps the virus evade neutralizing antibodies. RSV is notable for being able to efficiently infect early in life, with the peak of hospitalization at 2–3 months of age. It also is notable for the ability to reinfect symptomatically throughout life without need for significant antigenic change, although immunity from prior infection reduces disease. It is widely thought that re-infection is due to an ability of RSV to inhibit or subvert the host immune response. Mechanisms of viral pathogenesis remain controversial. RSV is notable for a historic, tragic pediatric vaccine failure involving a formalin-inactivated virus preparation that was evaluated in the 1960s and that was poorly protective and paradoxically primed for enhanced RSV disease. RSV also is notable for the development of a successful strategy for passive immunoprophylaxis of high-risk infants using RSV-neutralizing antibodies. Vaccines and new antiviral drugs are in pre-clinical and clinical development, but controlling RSV remains a formidable challenge.