BronchStart study will help predict RSV epidemics

Non-pharmaceutical interventions to slow or eliminate the spread of COVID-19 have had dramatic consequences on the transmission of other respiratory viruses, in particular Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) in children. Now, the BronchStart surveillance study funded by RESCEU, will contribute to identify and interpret the impact of delayed bronchiolitis epidemic in the UK and Ireland. The study is being led by UEDIN.

The BronchStart project is a surveillance platform study run by the PERUKI network (Paediatric Emergency Research UK and Ireland) across paediatric emergency departments throughout the UK. PERUKI provides an ability to access a wide network of paediatric emergency medicine doctors (current almost 50 UK sites for BronchStart) who actively support studies and data entry. This capability has enabled BronchStart through PERUKI to commence surveillance activities at speed and low cost.

This is of extremely relevance, as the impact of non-pharmaceutical interventions for COVID-19 has disrupted RSV transmission, and with it, our ability to predict timing of RSV epidemics. BronchStart using a RedCAP database to gather live information from emergency departments is now able to deliver information on RSV case frequency and distribution in populations across the UK. Importantly BronchStart can also provide information on age distribution of cases (as lack of seasonality may enhance susceptability for particular age groups) and disease severity. These functions are reported live (through the microreact website) and can alert clinicians to anticipate changes in workload and prepare for out of season RSV surges. To date over 11000 children have been recruited. We are also now engaging with sites through BronchStart to interrogate genomic aspects of RSV spread and severity, adding another layer of information to our understanding of RSV disease.

The PERUKI network is long established. RESCEU funding has enabled us to demonstrate the value of BronchStart and we are actively capitalising on that value to seek funding to continue these activities beyond September.

By Steve Cunningham, Professor Paediatric Respiratory Medicine at University of Edinburgh and Damian Roland, Honorary Professor of Paediatric Emergency Medicine, at Leicester University.

BronchStart  study is sponsored by University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust.