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Respiratory infections positive for human respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) subtype A were characterised in children admitted to hospitals in Rome and Ancona (Italy) over the last three epidemic seasons. Different strains of the novel RSV-A genotype ON1, first identified in Ontario (Canada) in December 2010, were detected for the first time in Italy in the following 2011/12 epidemic season. They bear an insertion of 24 amino acids in the G glycoprotein as well as amino acid changes likely to change antigenicity. By early 2013, ON1 strains had spread so efficiently that they had nearly replaced other RSV-A strains. Notably, the RSV peak in the 2012/13 epidemic season occurred earlier and, compared with the previous two seasons, influenza-like illnesses diagnoses were more frequent in younger children; bronchiolitis cases had a less severe clinical course. Nonetheless, the ON1-associated intensive care unit admission rate was similar, if not greater, than that attributable to other RSV-A strains. Improving RSV surveillance would allow timely understanding of the epidemiological and clinicopathological features of the novel RSV-A genotype.


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