Background: Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is the most important cause of viral pneumonia in children worldwide. A maternal vaccine may protect both the mother and infant from RSV illness. The epidemiology and clinical presentation of RSV in pregnant and postpartum women is not well-described.
Methods: Data were collected from a prospective, randomized trial of influenza immunization in pregnant women in rural southern Nepal. Women were enrolled in their second trimester of pregnancy and followed until six months postpartum. Active weekly home-based surveillance for febrile respiratory illness was performed. Mid-nasal swabs collected with episodes of respiratory illness were tested for RSV by real-time polymerase chain reaction.
Results: RSV was detected in 14 (0.4%) illness episodes in 3693 women over 3554 person-years of surveillance from 2011-2014. RSV incidence was 3.9/1000 person-years overall, and 11.8/1000 person-years between September and December. Seven (50%) women sought care for RSV illness; none died. Of the 7 (50%) illness episodes during pregnancy, all had live births with 2 (29%) preterm births and a median birthweight of 3060 grams. This compares to 469 (13%) preterm births and a median birthweight of 2790 grams in women without RSV during pregnancy. Of the 7 mothers with postpartum RSV infection, RSV was detected in 4 (57%) of their infants.
Conclusions: RSV was an uncommon cause of febrile respiratory illness in mothers during pregnancy in Nepal. These data will inform prevention and therapeutic strategies against RSV in resource-limited settings.