Background: Few studies describe the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) burden in African populations, and most have utilized hospital-based surveillance. In Mali, no community-based studies exist of the incidence or epidemiology of RSV infection. This study provides the first estimates of RSV incidence in Mali.
Methods: In a cohort of infants enrolled in a clinical trial of maternal influenza vaccination, we estimate incidence of RSV-associated febrile illness in the first 6 months of life and identify risk factors for RSV infection and progression to severe disease. Infants (N = 1871) were followed from birth to 6 months of age and visited weekly to detect pneumonia and influenza-like illness. Baseline covariates were explored as risk factors for RSV febrile illness and RSV pneumonia or hospitalization.
Results: Incidence of RSV illness was estimated at 536.8 per 1000 person-years, and 86% (131/153) of RSV illness episodes were positive for RSV-B. RSV illness was most frequent in the fifth month of life and associated with having older mothers and with lower parity. The incidence of RSV-associated hospitalizations was 45.6 per 1000 person-years. Among infants with RSV illness, males were more likely to be hospitalized. The incidence of RSV pneumonia was 29 cases per 1000 person-years.
Conclusions: In the first 6 months of life, Malian infants have a high incidence of RSV illness, primarily caused by RSV-B. Prevention of early RSV will require passive protection via maternal immunization in pregnancy. Mali is the first country where RSV-B has been identified as the dominant subtype, with potential implications for vaccine development.