Human respiratory syncytial virus (HRSV) causes substantial morbidity and mortality in vulnerable patients, such as the very young, the elderly, and immunocompromised individuals of any age. Nosocomial transmission of HRSV remains a serious challenge in hospital settings, with intervention strategies largely limited to infection control measures, including isolation of cases, high standards of hand hygiene, cohort nursing, and use of personal protective equipment. No vaccines against HRSV are currently available, and treatment options are largely supportive care and expensive monoclonal antibody or antiviral therapy. The limitations of current animal models for HRSV infection impede the development of new preventive and therapeutic agents, and the assessment of their potential for limiting HRSV transmission, in particular in nosocomial settings. Here, we demonstrate the efficient transmission of HRSV from immunocompromised ferrets to both immunocompromised and immunocompetent contact ferrets, with pathological findings reproducing HRSV pathology in humans. The immunocompromised ferret-HRSV model represents a novel tool for the evaluation of intervention strategies against nosocomial transmission of HRSV.
Keywords: animal model; contact; ferret; immunocompromised; respiratory syncytial virus; transmission.