In the final months of 2019, pathogen research labs in the United States shifted their attention to a then “novel” pathogen; SARS-CoV-2. By March of 2020*, the pathogen had spread to the point where it was declared a “Pandemic”. Companies like Thermo Fisher Scientific worked diligently to develop, produce, and distribute molecular pathogen detection solutions to cope with the increase in Sars-Cov-2 infections.
The “Disappearance” of common respiratory pathogens
Public health organizations focused on increased pathogen testing for Sars-CoV-2 with hopes of controlling the spread of the pathogen. The pathogen transmitted from one host to another with relative ease, making pathogen detection for influenza and respiratory syncytial virus a lower priority for laboratories. These two respiratory pathogens normally circulate during the colder months of the year. However, due to heavy testing for Sar-CoV-2 and public health measures to contain the spread of the pathogen, RSV, and influenza statistically “disappeared” **.
The present (2022)
With society learning to live with SARS-CoV-2 present throughout the year, potential hosts to other respiratory viruses have become open to getting infected by other pathogens. Respiratory syncytial virus, commonly referred to as “RSV”, has returned to circulation earlier than past data suggested. For context, CDC data indicates six positive cases of RSV for the week of October 24, 2020. On October 15, 2022, the same source reports over 7,000 positive cases*. According to a report from NPR, a pediatric healthcare facility is treating an average of 300 RSV cases per day***.
The pathogen, although not as deadly as SARS-CoV-2 or influenza, normally infects hosts two years old or younger. Hosts of this age do not have the natural defenses against the virus as older hosts. Meaning that an RSV infection, combined with high-risk conditions, can be fatal. The infection can lead to dehydration, respiratory difficulty, and other serious illnesses like bronchiolitis or pneumonia****.
Prior to testing, RSV is referred to as a “flu-like-illness”. This is because the symptoms of an infected host, at first glance, can be confused with those of influenza and/or SARS-CoV-2. Multiplex molecular pathogen detection is one simple way of detecting the pathogen. Multiplex testing enables laboratories to use one research sample and test for multiple pathogens at the same time. The assays can detect the pathogen responsible for the infection, as well as coinfections between other pathogens. Thermo Fisher Scientific offers off-the-shelf and made-to-order research solutions for molecular pathogen detection.
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*CDC Museum COVID-19 Timeline. (2022, August 16). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/museum/timeline/covid19.html
**Upcoming 2020-2021 Influenza Season. (2021, October 25). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/flu/season/faq-flu-season-2020-2021.htm
***RSV Numerator Data for the US. (n.d.). Retrieved October 24, 2022, from https://www.cdc.gov/surveillance/nrevss/images/trend_images/RSV14Num_Nat.htm
****Romo, V. (2022, October 24). Children’s hospitals grapple with a nationwide surge in RSV infections. NPR.org. https://www.npr.org/2022/10/24/1130764314/childrens-hospitals-rsv-surge
***** Christensen, J., & Charles, R. (2022, October 21). A common respiratory virus is spreading at unusually high levels, overwhelming children’s hospitals. Here’s what parents need to know. CNN. https://edition.cnn.com/2022/10/21/health/rsv–hospitals–what–to–know–wellness/index.html
For Research Use Only. Not for use in diagnostic procedures.