Burden of respiratory syncytial virus infection in community-dwelling older adults in Europe (RESCEU): an international prospective cohort study

Korsten K, Adriaenssens N, Coenen S, Butler C, Ravanfar B, Rutter H, Allen J, Falsey A, Pirçon JY, Gruselle O, Pavot V, Vernhes C, Balla-Jhagjhoorsingh S, Öner D, Ispas G, Aerssens J, Shinde V, Verheij T, Bont L, Wildenbeest J; RESCEU investigators.


Background: Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) infection in older adults is recognized as an important health issue. We aimed to assess the community burden of RSV in Europe in older adults aged ≥60 years.

Methods: This international prospective observational cohort study is part of REspiratory Syncytial virus Consortium in EUrope (RESCEU). Participants were recruited before two independent RSV-seasons through general practitioner’s offices. Participants reported weekly about symptoms of acute respiratory tract infection (ARTI) during one RSV-season. . ARTI patients were tested for RSV during home visits and completed a daily symptom diary. RSV-illness included PCR-confirmed ARTI and those showing seroconversion over the season. RSV-ARTI was based on PCR alone (ClinicalTrials.gov, NCT03621930).

Results: We recruited 1040 participants (527 in season 2017-2018, 513 in season 2018-2019) with a median age of 75 years (range 60-100). 1023 (99%) lived independently at home at baseline. RSV-illness incidence was 4.2% (22/527) and 7.2% (37/513) in the respective seasons. RSV-illness did not affect frailty or cardiopulmonary status during the course of the study. No patients were hospitalized or died from RSV-illness. In the 36 patients with PCR confirmed RSV-ARTI, symptom duration averaged 19 days, while a doctor’s visit took place in 11/36 (31%) of cases. RSV-ARTI could not clinically be differentiated from all other ARTI based on symptoms.

Conclusion: This European study showed that RSV is prevalent in community-dwelling older adults and rarely causes severe disease. This suggests that watchful waiting, using a continuity of care approach to identify those who do need more intensive care is often justified when RSV is suspected in family practice.

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