Respiratory syncytial virus in young children: community cohort study integrating serological surveys, questionnaire and electronic health records, Born in Bradford cohort, England, 2008 to 2013

Publication authors

Ania Zylbersztejn, Lucy Pembrey, Harvey Goldstein, Guy Berbers, Rutger Schepp, Fiona van der Klis, Charles Sande, Dan Mason, John Wright, Rosalind Smyth, Pia Hardelid


BackgroundBronchiolitis caused by respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is a major cause of mortality and morbidity in infants.

AimTo describe RSV epidemiology in children in the community in a high-income setting.

MethodsWe used stored blood samples from the United Kingdom Born in Bradford cohort study that had been collected at birth, age 1 and 2 years old, tested for IgG RSV postfusion F antibody and linked to questionnaires and primary and hospital care records. We used finite mixture models to classify children as RSV infected/not infected according to their antibody concentrations at age 1 and 2 years. We assessed risk factors for primary RSV infection at each age using Poisson regression models.

ResultsThe study cohort included 700 children with cord blood samples; 490 had additional blood samples taken at both ages 1 and 2 years old. Of these 490 children, 258 (53%; 95% confidence interval (CI): 48–57%) were first infected with RSV at age 1, 99 of whom (38%; 95% CI: 33–43%) had been in contact with healthcare during peak RSV season (November–January). Having older siblings, birth in October–June and attending formal childcare were associated with risk of RSV infection in infancy. By age 2, a further 164 of 490 children (33%; 95% CI: 29–38%) had been infected.

ConclusionOver half of children experienced RSV infection in infancy, a further one third had evidence of primary RSV infection by age 2, and one in seven remained seronegative by their second birthday. These findings will inform future analyses to assess the cost-effectiveness of RSV vaccination programmes in high-income settings.