Lung - nontumor
Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV)

Topic Completed: 1 September 2011

Revised: 29 January 2019, last major update September 2011

Copyright: (c) 2003-2018,, Inc.

PubMed search: respiratory syncytial virus [title] pulmonary infection

Elliot Weisenberg, M.D.
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Page views in 2020 to date: 748
Cite this page: Weisenberg E. Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). website. Accessed May 28th, 2020.
Clinical features
  • Leading cause of lower respiratory tract infection in infants and young children (eMedicine)
  • Often in children under 2 years old; may cause death in infants 1 - 6 months
  • Usually self limited infection in older children
  • Infects respiratory epithelium, leading to acute inflammatory response with epithelial sloughing and diffuse alveolar damage in severe cases
Microscopic (histologic) description
  • Prominent airway obstruction (Mod Pathol 2007;20:108)
  • Giant cells with inconspicuous, round, pink intracytoplasmic inclusions and acute inflammation
  • Affects small bronchiole epithelium, type 1 and 2 pneumocytes, not basal cells
  • Inflammation centered on bronchial and pulmonary arterioles, due to monocytes, T cells, neutrophils
Microscopic (histologic) images

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Giant cells

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