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ESR study shows the economic and health burden of respiratory syncytial virus infection in adults

16 June 2020

Respiratory surveillance
Medical Equipment On An Operation Room
Medical Equipment On An Operation Room

New research from ESR has quantified the health and economic burden of a common respiratory virus among New Zealand adults.

Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is a major cause of respiratory infections in children, but the burden of disease in adults has been less completely studied. ESR scientist Namrata Prasad, who is also a PhD candidate at the University of Auckland, says findings from the study address a key gap in the understanding of RSV epidemiology.

“Most estimates of RSV-associated hospitalisation rates are from studies conducted in the United States. Additionally, few studies have assessed RSV burden among adults by key demographic factors” she says

“In this study we aimed to provide comprehensive estimates of the health and economic burden of RSV disease among adults aged over 18 years and assess any associated health disparities.”

The study focused on the seasonal incidence of RSV hospitalisations and direct health costs in adults in Auckland between 2012–15 and used data from the Southern Hemisphere Influenza and Vaccine Effectiveness, Research and Surveillance (SHIVERS). SHIVERS was funded by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

 “We found RSV to be an important cause of disease and economic cost in adults, however, the burden of RSV disease was smaller than that due to influenza during the same time period,” Ms Prasad says. “We also found RSV to disproportionally affect specific groups of adults defined by age, ethnicity, and neighbourhood socioeconomic status.”

The study estimated RSV to cause approximately 24 hospitalisations per 100,000 adults aged 18 years or older. The risk of hospitalisation increased with age. Being of Māori or Pacific ethnicity or living in a neighbourhood with low socioeconomic status were also associated with an increased risk of RSV hospitalisation.

The researchers estimated that RSV-associated hospitalisations among adults aged over 18 years to cost on average $4,758 per patient. These estimations of cost are based on direct health care costs only and do not account for the indirect costs associated with loss of work hours and out-of-pocket expenses.

Ms Prasad says the findings provide evidence to inform virus treatment and preventative strategies in adult populations.

“No licensed RSV vaccine is currently available, but several adult RSV vaccines candidates are in development.”

“More interventions that effectively address health equity are necessary. An effective RSV vaccine or RSV treatment may offer health and economic benefits, particularly among older adults”

Authors include fellow ESR scientists Dr Claire Newbern Dr Sue Huang and Ms Lauren Jelley, and Nayyereh Aminisani of the Neyshabur University of Medical Sciences. Alongside Adrian Trenholme and Conroy Wong of the Counties Manukau District Health Board, Mark Thompson of the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Colin McArthur of Auckland City Hospital and Cameron Grant of Starship Children’s Hospital and the University of Auckland.