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RSV, Virus RSV, Virus

RSV Diagnosis, Prevention, and Management

Testing for RSV is key for diagnosis1,2

RSV, Patient

Diagnosis in primary care is usually based on symptoms and local epidemiology3
RSV is under-diagnosed and under-reported in adults, in part because:

  • Symptoms of RSV may be indistinguishable from those of other respiratory infections2
  • Laboratory diagnosis of viral respiratory infections in adults is not routine practice4

Different laboratory tests are available to confirm RSV infection:1,2

RSV, PCR, Testing

RNA detection by RT-PCR1,2

  • Excellent sensitivity and specificity
  • Useful for older children and adults with lower viral loads in respiratory secretions
RSV, Antigen, Testing

Antigen detection by ELISA or immunofluorescence1,2

  • Most reliable in young children in whom these tests have sensitivity of around 80–90%
  • Less useful in older children and adults due to low viral loads
RSV, Testing

Culture isolation1,2

  • Time consuming (2–5 days) and requires skilled personnel
  • Generally reliable in young children
  • Less useful in older children and adults (due to lower viral loads)

Early diagnosis may help provide better care for older adults with RSV4

Diagnosis of RSV in adults may help to:

*For example, chest physiotherapy, bronchodilators, anti-inflammatory treatments, physical therapy5

Vaccines to help protect against RSV in the older adult and maternal populations, as well immunisations to help protect infants are licensed in the UK, but no National Immunisation Programme for RSV in the UK currently exists.6

Infection prevention and control measures to limit the spread of RSV such as those below can help reduce the risk of disease transmission.7

Currently no specific treatments for RSV are available for adults7,8

RSV, Virus

Supportive care is the basis of therapy for acute RSV infection in adults, and may include bronchodilators, supplemental oxygen, fluid replacement and antipyretics9

Learn more about RSV disease and its burden in adults:


ELISA, enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay; LRTI, lower respiratory tract infection; PCR, Polymerase chain reaction; RT-PCR, reverse transcription PCR; RSV, respiratory syncytial virus


  1. Henrickson KJ, Hall CB. Pediatr Infect Dis J 2007;26:S36–S40
  2. CDC, 2023. RSV – Information for healthcare professionals. Accessed September 2023
  3. Mayo Clinic, 2023. RSV diagnosis and treatment. Accessed September 2023
  4. Branche AR, Falsey AR. Drugs Aging 2015;32:261–269
  5. Lee N et al. J Infect Dis 2019;220:969–979
  6. JCVI, Department of Health & Social Care, 2023. Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) immunisation programme for infants and older adults: JCVI full statement, 11 September 2023. Accessed December 2023.
  7. CDC, 2023. RSV – Prevention. Accessed September 2023
  8. National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID), 2023. RSV in older adults. Accessed September 2023
  9. Nam HH, Ison MG. BMJ 2019;366:l5021

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December 2023 | NX-GB-AVU-WCNT-230001 (V1.0)