The natural history of respiratory syncytial virus in a birth cohort: the influence of age and previous infection on reinfection and disease

Ohuma EO, Okiro EA, Ochola R, Sande CJ, Cane PA, Medley GF, Bottomley C, Nokes DJ
Am J Epidemiol. 2012;176

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This study aimed to quantify the effect of age, time since last infection, and infection history on the rate of respiratory syncytial virus infection and the effect of age and infection history on the risk of respiratory syncytial virus disease. A birth cohort of 635 children in Kilifi, Kenya, was monitored for respiratory syncytial virus infections from January 31, 2002, to April 22, 2005. Predictors of infection were examined by Cox regression and disease risk by binomial regression. A total of 598 respiratory syncytial virus infections were identified (411 primary, 187 repeat), with 409 determined by antigen assay and 189 by antibody alone (using a "most pragmatic" serologic definition). The incidence decreased by 70% following a primary infection (adjusted hazard ratio = 0.30, 95% confidence interval: 0.21, 0.42; P < 0.001) and by 59% following a secondary infection (hazard ratio = 0.41, 95% confidence interval: 0.22, 0.73; P = 0.003), for a period lasting 6 months. Relative to the age group <6 months, all ages exhibited a higher incidence of infection. A lower risk of severe disease following infection was independently associated with increasing age (P < 0.001) but not reinfection. In conclusion, observed respiratory syncytial virus incidence was lowest in the first 6 months of life, immunity to reinfection was partial and short lived, and disease risk was age related.