A prospective surveillance study on the kinetics of the humoral immune response to the respiratory syncytial virus fusion protein in adults in Houston, Texas

Vaccine. 2021 Feb 22;39(8):1248-1256. doi: 10.1016/j.vaccine.2021.01.045. Epub 2021 Jan 26.


Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV)-specific serum antibody has been correlated to protection of infection and reduction of severe disease, but reinfection is still frequent. In this study, we evaluated RSV-specific serum antibody activity following natural RSV re-infection to examine the longevity of the humoral immune response in adults. Nineteen healthy adult volunteers under sixty-five years of age were enrolled during the 2018-2019 RSV season in Houston, TX. Blood was collected at three study visits. The kinetics of RSV-neutralizing, RSV F site-specific competitive, and RSV-binding antibodies in serum samples were measured by microneutralization and enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays. Three distinct profiles of RSV-specific antibody kinetics were identified that were consistent with RSV infection status: uninfected, acutely infected, and recently infected. The uninfected group had stable antibody titers for the duration of the study period (185 days). The acutely infected group had lower antibody responses at the beginning of the study, supporting a correlate of infection, followed by a significant antibody response after infection that was maintained for at least 125 days. Unlike the acutely infected group, the recently infected group had a significant precipitous decrease in RSV antibody in only 60 days. This study is the first, to our knowledge, to describe this abrupt loss of RSV-specific antibody in detail. This rapid decline of antibody may present an obstacle for the development of vaccines with lasting protection against RSV, and perhaps other respiratory pathogens. Neutralizing antibody responses were greater to prototypic than contemporaneous RSV strains, regardless of infection status, indicating that original antigenic sin may impact the humoral immune response to new or emerging RSV strains.

Keywords: Binding antibody; Competitive antibody; Neutralizing antibody; Original antigenic sin; Respiratory viruses; Vaccine.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antibodies, Neutralizing
  • Antibodies, Viral
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Humoral*
  • Kinetics
  • Prospective Studies
  • Respiratory Syncytial Virus Infections / immunology*
  • Respiratory Syncytial Virus Vaccines*
  • Respiratory Syncytial Virus, Human
  • Texas / epidemiology
  • Viral Fusion Proteins / immunology


  • Antibodies, Neutralizing
  • Antibodies, Viral
  • Respiratory Syncytial Virus Vaccines
  • Viral Fusion Proteins