Nose swabs may identify babies with severe RSV

  • Health officials in Illinois have warned about an increase in the number of young children needing hospitalization for respiratory illness, such as RSV, in recent weeks.

    Health officials in Illinois have warned about an increase in the number of young children needing hospitalization for respiratory illness, such as RSV, in recent weeks. Stock Photo

 
Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago
Posted11/26/2022 7:00 AM

When a child with respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) requires intensive care, parents often ask about how long it will take before their child can go home. Currently, there is no reliable way to answer this question.

However, results of a new study from Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago offer important insights. This study linked more severe RSV with greater damage to cells lining the nose.

 

Researchers used nose swabs from children with RSV in the pediatric intensive care unit within a few days of hospital stay to examine what genes turn on in response to the virus. They found that despite the same quantity of RSV and the same clinical presentation, some children had signs of greater damage to the cells lining the nose, and this correlated to longer PICU stays.

Results were published in the journal Frontiers in Immunology.

"We were excited to find that the severity of a child's illness related to the different sets of genes turned on in their body's response to RSV," said senior author Dr. Bria Coates, a critical care physician at Lurie Children's and assistant professor of pediatrics at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

"The ability to identify which infants with RSV in intensive care will recover quickly and which patients will require a longer stay would provide invaluable information to parents and medical providers," she said.

Coates cautioned that these findings would need to be validated in a larger group of children before they can be used clinically. If the results hold true in larger studies, then a PCR test could be developed to distinguish the children who would likely take longer to recover from critical RSV illness.

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"At this stage, we saw that more injury in the nasal mucosal membranes of children with RSV may be a marker of a dysregulated response to the virus and predict more prolonged illness," said Coates, who also is the Crown Family Research Scholar in Developmental Biology. "These are promising findings that ultimately might offer better answers to parents and the care team."

Research at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago is conducted through Stanley Manne Children's Research Institute. The Manne Research Institute is focused on improving child health, transforming pediatric medicine and ensuring healthier futures through the relentless pursuit of knowledge.

Lurie Children's is ranked as one of the nation's top children's hospitals by U.S. News & World Report. It is the pediatric training ground for Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

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