Int J Biol Sci 2021; 17(14):4073-4091. doi:10.7150/ijbs.64762 This issue


Respiratory syncytial virus: from pathogenesis to potential therapeutic strategies

Zifang Shang1,2, Shuguang Tan2, Dongli Ma1✉

1. Institute of Pediatrics, Shenzhen Children's Hospital, 518026 Shenzhen, Guangdong Province, China.
2. CAS Key Laboratory of Pathogenic Microbiology and Immunology, Institute of Microbiology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, 100101Beijing, China.

This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License ( See for full terms and conditions.
Shang Z, Tan S, Ma D. Respiratory syncytial virus: from pathogenesis to potential therapeutic strategies. Int J Biol Sci 2021; 17(14):4073-4091. doi:10.7150/ijbs.64762. Available from

File import instruction


Graphic abstract

Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is one of the most important viral pathogens causing respiratory tract infection in infants, the elderly and people with poor immune function, which causes a huge disease burden worldwide every year. It has been more than 60 years since RSV was discovered, and the palivizumab monoclonal antibody, the only approved specific treatment, is limited to use for passive immunoprophylaxis in high-risk infants; no other intervention has been approved to date. However, in the past decade, substantial progress has been made in characterizing the structure and function of RSV components, their interactions with host surface molecules, and the host innate and adaptive immune response to infection. In addition, basic and important findings have also piqued widespread interest among researchers and pharmaceutical companies searching for effective interventions for RSV infection. A large number of promising monoclonal antibodies and inhibitors have been screened, and new vaccine candidates have been designed for clinical evaluation. In this review, we first briefly introduce the structural composition, host cell surface receptors and life cycle of RSV virions. Then, we discuss the latest findings related to the pathogenesis of RSV. We also focus on the latest clinical progress in the prevention and treatment of RSV infection through the development of monoclonal antibodies, vaccines and small-molecule inhibitors. Finally, we look forward to the prospects and challenges of future RSV research and clinical intervention.

Keywords: Respiratory syncytial virus, Pathogenesis, Infection, Intervention, Antibody, Vaccine