WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 28, 2016

Marshfield Clinic researchers discover new dangers of RSV infection

Researchers at the Marshfield Clinic Research Foundation released a study recently, announcing novel discoveries made regarding the dangers of respiratory syncytial virus infections in adults age 50 and older.

"RSV has long been known to cause serious respiratory illness in infants, but much less is known about the illnesses RSV causes in older adults," Director of the Epidemiology Research Center at Marshfield Clinic Research Foundation Dr. Edward Belongia said. "Knowing that adults' susceptibility to RSV increases as they age is important for health care providers and public health officials to note as they treat and monitor respiratory illnesses this season."

RSV is a viral infection that infects the lungs and breathing passages of its host. While it is common for children and infants to come down with an RSV infection, little was previously known about the dangers of RSV infections in adults.

The study found that RSV infections are responsible for approximately 10 percent of winter hospitalizations for pneumonia in adults 65 years old and older. While RSV infections are a threat to infants, children and elderly adult populations, the study did reveal that influenza infections can be more severe.

"Influenza gets a lot of attention this time of the year and for good reason - it's a serious illness that affects thousands of people," MCRF Epidemiologist and a lead author of the study Maria Sundaram said. "Although this study showed RSV may lead to fewer complications than flu, it still has the potential to cause serious respiratory illness, especially in older adults with weakened immune systems or other pre-existing conditions."

MCRF researchers plan to continue studies to observe why RSV infections are more severe in older adults than other groups.