Severe respiratory syncytial virus disease in preterm infants: a case of innate immaturity.

Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is the most common viral pathogen associated with acute lower respiratory tract infection (LRTI) in children under 5 years of age. Severe RSV disease is associated with the development of chronic respiratory complications such as recurrent wheezing and asthma. A common risk factor for developing severe RSV disease is premature gestation and this is largely due to an immature innate immune system. This increases susceptibility to RSV since the innate immune system is less able to protect against pathogens at a time when adaptive immunity has not fully developed. This review focuses on comparing different aspects of innate immunity between preterm and term infants to better understand why preterm infants are more susceptible to severe RSV disease. Identifying early life innate immune biomarkers associated with the development of severe RSV disease, and understanding how these compare between preterm and term infants, remains a critically important question that would aid the development of interventions to reduce the burden of disease in this vulnerable population.

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