Evolution of human respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) over multiple seasons in New South Wales, Australia

Francesca Di Giallonardo, Jen Kok, Marian Fernandez, Ian Carter, Jemma L. Geoghegan, Dominic E. Dwyer, Edward C. Holmes, John Sebastian Eden*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)
38 Downloads (Pure)


There is an ongoing global pandemic of human respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) infection that results in substantial annual morbidity and mortality. In Australia, RSV is a major cause of acute lower respiratory tract infections (ALRI). Nevertheless, little is known about the extent and origins of the genetic diversity of RSV in Australia, nor the factors that shape this diversity. We have conducted a genome-scale analysis of RSV infections in New South Wales (NSW). RSV genomes were successfully sequenced for 144 specimens collected between 2010–2016. Of these, 64 belonged to the RSVA and 80 to the RSVB subtype. Phylogenetic analysis revealed a wide diversity of RSV lineages within NSW and that both subtypes evolved rapidly in a strongly clock-like manner, with mean rates of approximately 6–8 × 10−4 nucleotide substitutions per site per year. There was only weak evidence for geographic clustering of sequences, indicative of fluid patterns of transmission within the infected population and no evidence of any clustering by patient age such that viruses in the same lineages circulate through the entire host population. Importantly, we show that both subtypes circulated concurrently in NSW with multiple introductions into the Australian population in each year and only limited evidence for multi-year persistence.

Original languageEnglish
Article number476
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 6 Sep 2018

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2018. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


  • respiratory syncytial virus
  • phylogenetics
  • evolution
  • multi-year persistence


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