WHO Global Respiratory Syncytial Virus Surveillance

WHO launches phase-2 of the Global Respiratory Syncytial Virus Surveillance

CDC/Lyerla Craig

The 3-year extension phase (Nov 2018 – Oct 2021) aims to consolidate the achievements of the original investment and proposes to

(a) enhance the surveillance in infants and young children less than 2y,

(b) focus on the more severe disease requiring hospitalization,

(c) widen virologic monitoring to differentiate virus types and to identify genetic groups, and

(d) generate a robust understanding of the seasonality, risk groups and disease burden particularly RSV-associated hospitalization burden in LMICs with a wider geographic representation in all WHO Regions.

Smiling baby in Brazil
WHO/Anna Kari

Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) is a leading cause of hospitalization due to acute lower respiratory infection especially in infants and young children. Currently available options (Palivizumab) for preventing and treating RSV are limited to select populations in high-resource settings. Fortunately, several vaccine candidates are now in the human testing phase targeting young children, older adults and pregnant women, and an effective safe vaccine is likely to be available in the near future.

Several countries test for RSV as part of influenza and other respiratory virus surveillance. Important challenges to be addressed include the need for global standardization of virologic and epidemiological surveillance and the review of criteria for a RSV case definition. Addressing these challenges will enable improved identification of RSV infection especially in infants and young children.

The WHO Global Influenza Programme with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, piloted a RSV surveillance strategy Phase I based on the Global Influenza Surveillance and Response System (GISRS) in 14 countries in order to standardized RSV surveillance and provide evidence to support Public Health and to inform RSV vaccination policy. The Pilot Phase I was supported by 4 RSV Reference Laboratories and the International Reagent Resource (IRR) of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, USA.

WHO Global Respiratory Syncytial Virus Surveillance

WHO RSV strategic guidance
CDC/Alan Janssen

The experiences of the pilot phase were reviewed at a WHO meeting in Bangkok (October 2018). The important outcomes were

- The feasibility of leveraging GISRS for RSV surveillance with marginal incremental costs, and without any significant adverse impact on influenza surveillance

- The high performance of the extended SARI case definition for detection of laboratory confirmed RSV infection especially in the younger age groups

- The development of epidemiologic and virologic standards for RSV detection

- The establishment of an external quality assurance program for RSV

- A better understanding of the seasonality and global circulation of RSV