Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV): Replication, Pathogenesis

By Acharya Tankeshwar •  Updated: 05/18/22 •  5 min read

Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), is a member of the Pneumovirus genus within the family Paramyxoviridae.  RSV usually causes mild, cold-like symptoms. Most people recover in a week or two, but RSV can be serious, especially in infants and older adults.

RSV is a most common cause of pneumonia and bronchiolitis in infants and young children.


Genome: single-stranded negative-sense RNA
Polymerase: viral encoded RNA-dependent RNA polymerase
Site of replication: cytoplasm of the host cell

  1. RSV attaches to host cells via the surface glycoprotein.
  2. Virion envelope fuses with the cell membrane by the action of fusion glycoprotein and enters the cell.
  3. Release the genome RNA and RNA-dependent RNA polymerase into the cytoplasm.
  4. The polymerase uses the genome as a template to produce capped and polyadenylated mRNAs
  5. mRNAs are translated into viral proteins
  6. Antigenome and genome RNAs are produced
  7. The resulting genomes are assembled with other viral proteins and buds from the plasma membrane to produce progeny virus particles.


Signs and Symptoms 

Laboratory Diagnosis

Specimens should be collected using flocked nylon swabs (cotton-tipped or calcium alginate swabs are not suitable) and placed immediately in the viral transport medium (VTM). Preferred samples are:

Isolation of the virus and detection of viral antigens in respiratory secretions is the procedure of choice to diagnose respiratory syncytial virus infection.

Respiratory syncytial virus differs from other paramyxoviruses in that it does not have a hemagglutinin; therefore, diagnostic methods can not use hemagglutination or hemadsorption assays.

Antigen (Ag) detection 

Isolation and identification of the virus


Nucleic Acid Detection 

Detection of the genome of RSV in respiratory secretions using PCR.

Prevention and Control

Protect your child from RSV (Source: CDC)

Protect your child from RSV

  1. Avoid close contact with sick people.
  2. Wash your hands often.
  3. Cover your coughs & sneezes.
  4. Avoid touching your face with unwashed hands.
  5. Stay home when you’re sick.

References and further reading

Acharya Tankeshwar

Hello, thank you for visiting my blog. I am Tankeshwar Acharya. Blogging is my passion. As an asst. professor, I am teaching microbiology and immunology to medical and nursing students at PAHS, Nepal. I have been working as a microbiologist at Patan hospital for more than 10 years.

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