Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) is a common winter disease predominantly affecting children under one year of age. During the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, the circulation of RSV was dramatically reduced in the United Kingdom and Ireland. Evidence from the Southern Hemisphere and other European countries suggests that RSV infection returns.
BackgroundBronchiolitis (most frequently caused by Respiratory Syncytial Virus; RSV) is a common winter disease predominantly affecting children under one year of age. It is a common reason for presentations to an Emergency Department (ED) and frequently results in hospital admission, contributing to paediatric units approaching or exceeding capacity each winter. During the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, the circulation of RSV was dramatically reduced in the United Kingdom and Ireland. Evidence from the Southern Hemisphere and other European countries suggests that as social distancing restrictions for SARS-CoV-2 are relaxed, RSV infection returns, causing delayed or even summer epidemics, with different age distributions. Study questionThe ability to track, anticipate and respond to a surge in RSV cases is critical for planning acute care delivery. There is an urgent need to understand the onset of RSV spread at the earliest opportunity. This will influence service planning, to inform clinicians whether the population at risk is a wider age range than normal, and whether there are changes in disease severity. This information is also needed to inform decision on the timing of passive immunisation of children at higher risk of hospitalisation, intensive care admission or death with RSV infection, which is a public health priority. Methods and likely impactThis multi-centre prospective observational cohort study will use a well-established research network (Paediatric Emergency Research in the UK and Ireland, PERUKI) to report in real time cases of RSV infection in children aged under two years, through the collection of essential, but non-identifying patient information. Forty centres will gather initial data on age, index of multiple deprivation quintile, clinical features on presentation, and co-morbidities. Each case will be followed up at 7 days to identify treatment, viral diagnosis and outcome. Information be released on a weekly basis and used to support clinical decision making.