January 10, 2024
Healio reports on a recent study that examined the rate of hospitalization among young children with respiratory syncytial virus at the start of COVID-19 versus six preceding seasons. Data were collected on nearly 7,000 children under the age of five years who were admitted with confirmed RSV infection to Nationwide Children’s Hospital. Those children were separated into either a pre-COVID 2012-2018 category or a 2021 and 2022-2023 COVID category, with the non-season of 2020 omitted.
Researchers found young children with RSV were hospitalized at a higher rate following COVID-19 than in the six seasons before the pandemic. In comparing clinical outcomes, they found RSV severity during the two post-pandemic seasons to be worse than those they examined prior to it. The researchers also looked into demographic characteristics of children hospitalized with RSV to assess whether the pandemic gap seasons affected older children.
The findings showed infants up to 12 months of age had significantly worse RSV severity in the latter seasons, with the RSV hospitalizations progressing from 30% (pre) to 37% (2021) to 42% (2022-2023). One reason that could lead to the increased severity, according to the researchers, was the lack of maternal antibodies being transferred to newborns during the pandemic. This underlined the need for the maternal vaccination or monoclonal antibody interventions to usher babies through RSV season.
Researchers found minor differences in race and ethnicity across the reviewed RSV seasons, but no significant differences in sex or underlying conditions. They recommend vigilant monitoring of RSV activity to gauge severity and protect infants even during off-season circulation.
One of the researchers was member of the PIDS Board of Directors, Asuncion Mejias. She is quoted in the story, “These results emphasize the importance of RSV prevention, for which we now have two extremely important and needed interventions…These results also emphasize the need to continue developing preventive strategies for older infants and young children, as they can also develop severe RSV disease. the importance of RSV prevention through our approved interventions, as well as the different hygienic measures that we’ve been recommending for many years.”