Common Childhood Virus Poses Threat To Adults, Research Shows

and less than 40 years old.

While 135 patients tested positive for RSV antibodies, only the 57 whose level of antibodies quadrupled over the course of a month were considered true cases of RSV for the study. In some patients, researchers noticed the effects of bacterial infection, which indicates they might have acquired a bacterial pneumonia along with or after RSV infection.

“Doctors used to think that adults who acquire RSV may get cold symptoms, not pneumonia,” said Murry. “But in fact, a third of the 57 RSV patients in this study had changes in their lung X-rays which were probably RSV-related.”

The RSV virus attacks the epithelial cells that line the airways in the lungs. It spreads as people cough up infected epithelial cells, so hand washing is the best way to limit the spread of RSV.

RSV is the leading cause of severe lower respiratory tract infection in infants and young children. According to Murry, nearly every child in the United States acquires RSV before the age of two, as their immune systems are developing. Adults most vulnerable to infection are those who have undergone chemotherapy or organ transplants, as well as those with HIV.

If a patient has a severe enough case of RSV to need the help of a breathing machine, doctors can treat the infection with Ribovarin, an anti-viral drug. Doctors dissolve the drug in saline, and patients inhale it through a mist.

Symptoms of RSV persist even after the patient is discharged from the hospital.

“When people go home, it may be a while before they feel completely better, because the damage to their airways will take at least 8 weeks to heal,” said Murry. “So they’ll remain kind of wheezy and a little short of breath for that time. Most people can go back to work as soon as they go home from the hospital.”

Murry said a normal person couldn’t easily tell whether they have RSV or just a nasty cold. One clue i

Contact: Andrew R. Murry
Ohio State University

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