RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus)

Useful For


Rapid and accurate detection of respiratory syncytial virus


Clinical Information


Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is a respiratory virus that infects the respiratory system and can cause an influenza-like illness. Most otherwise healthy people recover from RSV infection in 1 to 2 weeks. However, infection can be severe in infants, young children, and older adults. RSV is the most common cause of bronchiolitis (inflammation of the small airways in the lung) and pneumonia in children under 1 year of age in the United States, and is more frequently being recognized as an important cause of respiratory illness in older adults.


RSV is the major cause of lower respiratory tract disease in infants and young children causing seasonal epidemics of respiratory illness each year. So effectively does RSV spread that essentially all persons have experienced RSV infection within the first few years of life. RSV is spread by virus-laden droplets of respiratory secretions from infected individuals.


Infection may manifest as a variety of symptoms, ranging from rhinitis to pneumonia, which are influenced by factors such as the age, sex and socio-economic background of infected individuals. Approximately 50% of infants infected during the first year of life may develop lower respiratory tract illness involving bronchitis, bronchiolitis, bronchopneumonia and croup which may require hospitalization.


Infants with underlying complications such as congenital heart disease, bronchopulmonary dysplasia and congenital or other immunodeficiencies may be susceptible to severe, sometimes life threatening, infection with RSV. Recurrent less severe infections occur in all age groups, occasionally resulting in pneumonia in children and the elderly. Co-infections of RSV with other micro-organisms may result in increased severity of respiratory disease. Outbreaks in geriatric wards have been associated with considerable morbidity and occasional mortality. Nosocomial transmission of RSV occurs in paediatric wards and nursery units resulting in prolonged hospitalization and treatment of infected children.


RSV is an enveloped, spherical, RNA virus of the family paramyxoviridae and is classified in the genus Pneumovirus. This genus has four members: human RSV, bovine RSV, pneumonia virus of mice and turkey rhinotracheitis virus.




A positive result indicates that virus was present in the specimen submitted. Clinical correlation is necessary to determine the significance of this finding as asymptomatic, persistent, or recurrent adenovirus infections can occur.


Negative results may be seen in a number of situations including absence of viral disease, nonviable organisms submitted or suboptimal specimen collection/transport.


Clinical Reference


Hall, C. B. 2010. Respiratory Syncytial Virus, p. 2207-2221. In Mandell, D., Bennett, J. E., and Dolin, R. Principles and practice of infectious diseases, 7th ed., vol. 2. Churchill Livingstone, Elsevier, Philadelphia, PA.


Tang, Y., and Crowe Jr., J. E. 2007. Respiratory Syncytial Virus and Human Metapneumonvirus, p. 1361-1377. In Murray, P. R., Baron, E. J., Jorgensen, J. H., Landry, M. L., and Pfaller, M. A. Manual of Clinical Microbiology, 9th ed., vol. 2. ASM Press, American Society for Microbiology, Washington, DC.


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