Airway gene-expression classifiers for respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) disease severity in infants

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Background: A substantial number of infants infected with RSV develop severe symptoms requiring hospitalization. We currently lack accurate biomarkers that are associated with severe illness. Method: We defined airway gene expression profiles based on RNA sequencing from nasal brush samples from 106 full-tem previously healthy RSV infected subjects during acute infection (day 1–10 of illness) and convalescence stage (day 28 of illness). All subjects were assigned a clinical illness severity score (GRSS). Using AIC-based model selection, we built a sparse linear correlate of GRSS based on 41 genes (NGSS1). We also built an alternate model based upon 13 genes associated with severe infection acutely but displaying stable expression over time (NGSS2). Results: NGSS1 is strongly correlated with the disease severity, demonstrating a naïve correlation (ρ) of ρ = 0.935 and cross-validated correlation of 0.813. As a binary classifier (mild versus severe), NGSS1 correctly classifies disease severity in 89.6% of the subjects following cross-validation. NGSS2 has slightly less, but comparable, accuracy with a cross-validated correlation of 0.741 and classification accuracy of 84.0%. Conclusion: Airway gene expression patterns, obtained following a minimally-invasive procedure, have potential utility for development of clinically useful biomarkers that correlate with disease severity in primary RSV infection.




Wang, L., Chu, C. Y., McCall, M. N., Slaunwhite, C., Holden-Wiltse, J., Corbett, A., … Qiu, X. (2021). Airway gene-expression classifiers for respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) disease severity in infants. BMC Medical Genomics, 14(1).

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