Study looks at how to detect RSV in adults

Norton Infectious Diseases Institute has been selected by Pfizer as the only site in United States to study how to effectively detect respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) in adults.

Norton Infectious Diseases Institute has been selected by Pfizer as the only site in United States to study how to effectively detect respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) in adults.

“For the most part, RSV attention has been focused on children,” said Julio A. Ramirez, M.D., FACP, chief scientific officer, Norton Infectious Diseases Institute. “But some studies have suggested that up to 10% of adults with respiratory illness have RSV.”

The study, which is funded by Pfizer, will look at some of the best ways to identify RSV in adults. The long-term goal is to determine which adults are most impacted.

Patients ages 40 years and older who are experiencing respiratory symptoms and admitted to one of Norton Healthcare’s four adult-service hospitals in Louisville are invited to participate in the study. Once enrolled, nasopharyngeal, saliva, sputum and blood samples will be collected.

Symptoms of a mild RSV infection are very similar to a cold, including congestion and runny nose, cough, low fever, sore throat, headache and sneezing. In serious cases, RSV may lead to wheezing, difficulty breathing, higher fever, more severe cough and even bluish skin, indicating low oxygen levels. RSV also can cause pneumonia, bronchiolitis and congestive heart failure. Breathing often is most affected.

RSV also may play a part in making underlying chronic health conditions worse, including cardiovascular, pulmonary, metabolic and immune systems conditions.

“The majority of adults who get RSV have very minor symptoms,” said Ruth Carrico, Ph.D., DNP, APRN, FNP-C, CIC, FSHEA, FNAP, FAAN, director of research operations, Norton Infectious Diseases Institute. “But severe cases do occur in adults.”

RSV is a virus, and cannot be treated effectively with antibacterial agents. Instead, people with RSV usually are given supportive care similar to treating a cold or fever. In serious cases, this includes fluids and oxygen, and possibly a ventilator.

Norton Infectious Diseases Institute was chosen for this study because of the team’s depth of experience in clinical research. The team began enrolling patients in December 2021 and has more than 300 patients participating to date. The goal is to enroll up to 3,000 individuals over the course of the next two RSV seasons, which generally run November through April.

About the research team

Julio A. Ramirez, M.D., FACP, is chief scientific officer for Norton Infectious Diseases Institute, a part of Norton Healthcare, in Louisville, Ky., and professor of medicine at the University of Louisville School of Medicine. He’s also a fellow of the American College of Physicians. He is board certified in internal medicine and holds subspecialty certification in infectious diseases.

Dr. Ramirez’s areas of clinical and translational research include pneumonia, influenza and emerging respiratory pathogens. His research activities have received funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), U.S. Department of Defense and the National Institutes of Health. Dr. Ramirez has been published in more than 250 peer-reviewed publications, and he is a reviewer for several journals, including the New England Journal of Medicine and Annals of Internal Medicine. Dr. Ramirez currently serves as the section editor on pulmonary infections for the evidence-based clinical decision support tool “UpToDate.”

Dr. Ramirez served as a member of the American Thoracic Society (ATS) committee for the development of national guidelines for the management of community-acquired pneumonia and, more recently, on the ATS International Task Force on COVID-19, which published guidelines for the management of COVID-19. He also served as a member of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration advisory committee for the approval of anti-infective drugs. Dr. Ramirez is the recipient of the 2013 European Respiratory Society Presidential Award in recognition of his outstanding contribution to research in the field of respiratory infections.

Ruth Carrico, Ph.D., DNP, APRN, FNP-C, CIC, FSHEA, FNAP, FAAN, is director of research operations for Norton Infectious Diseases Institute. She is a family nurse practitioner and gratis faculty professor with the University of Louisville School Medicine Division of Infectious Diseases. Dr. Carrico has received training specific to health care epidemiology at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in conjunction with the Emory University Rollins School of Public Health, Atlanta, Georgia, and Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America.

Dr. Carrico has been on numerous boards and held numerous positions with infectious diseases societies and organizations, including APIC Text of Infection Control and Epidemiology, the CDC National Biosurveillance Subcommittee Advisory Committee to the Director and the CDC’s Healthcare Infection Control Practices Advisory Committee. In October 2021, Dr. Carrico was inducted as a fellow of the American Academy of Nursing, the highest honor in the nursing profession. Her practice and research activities involve infectious diseases, infection prevention and control, vaccinology and international travel medicine.


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