ASU study identifies key areas of RSV

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Every fall in Arizona, Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) cases surge. RSV is a major cause of acute respiratory infections, particularly in children, adults with severe lung conditions, and the elderly.

RSV is a virus that causes a common respiratory infection. Efrem said that most people get it and get over it within a week or two. The issue is for young kids and elderly people who get it. The disease can become very serious.

It is also easy to confuse RSV for the common cold or the flu, but labs can help determine what kind of infection it is and treat it accordingly.

In a first-of-its-kind study, ASU researcher Efrem Lim and his colleagues identify mutations in key areas of RSV, which the pathogen may have developed in an effort to evade targeting by vaccines designed to eradicate it.

“We’re seeing a trend in which the season of RSV is coming to creep up a little earlier,” Lim said. “Typically, RSV comes later in the fall seasons, but in the last two years, it’s been a month or two months before. We’re trying to figure out why that trend is going up earlier than we typically see.”

Lim said that it seems like COVID-19 may have had an impact.

“Typically in the fall, we just deal with the flu and RSV, but now we’re doing the three of them all together, Covid in addition to that as well. It’s called a ‘triple-demic,” Lim said.

The innovative study underscores the need for ongoing genomic surveillance to ensure vaccine effectiveness. Adaptations in vaccine formulations may be necessary to cope with the virus’s evolving landscape.

The research is particularly significant because it is the first study of contemporaneous RSV strains displaying mutations that may impact the FDA-approved RSV vaccines.

Efrem Lim, Virologist and Assistant Professor, ASU School of Life Sciences

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