BACKGROUND: Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is the main cause of hospitalization for bronchiolitis among infants. RSV is classified into two subtypes, A and B, whose predominance alternates during different epidemic seasons. The clinical impact of viral factors is controversial and many evidences suggest a critical role for the immune host response. Premature children are at the highest risk for severe RSV infection. The main aim of this study is to identify the different RSV subtypes circulating in the last three epidemic seasons and to evaluate whether any of them was associated with poor prognosis in term and preterm infants.
METHODS: We performed a retrospective analysis of medical records for all patients aged less than one year which were hospitalized during the winter season between November 2015 and April 2018 with clinical diagnosis of bronchiolitis and nasopharyngeal aspirates positive for RSV.
RESULTS: We enrolled 422 children, of which 50 were born preterm. During the analysis period, we observed a significant increase in the rates of oxygen supplementation and admission to intensive care unit. The evidence shows an alternating pattern in the prevalence of RSV subtypes among term born; in each epidemic season, the prevalent serotype is the cause of the majority of the cases requiring intensive care. Conversely, RSV-A is always prevalent in preterm children and caused most of the cases requiring intensive care.
CONCLUSIONS: During the 3 seasons analyzed, we observed an alternating prevalence of RSV A and B. While there are no differences in severity between RSV A and B in term population, RSV-A is prevalent and causes most of the severe cases in the premature group. Furthermore, an increase in RSV-related oxygen therapy and PICU admission has been documented not only in the premature population. Considering the absence of appropriate therapeutic strategies, our work emphasizes the importance of implementing prophylaxis measures against RSV and highlights the urgent need to gain knowledge about immune response to the virus, also in premature children.