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Infants (under 1-year-old) are at most risk of life threatening respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) disease. RSV epidemiological data alone has been insufficient in defining who acquires infection from whom (WAIFW) within households. We investigated RSV genomic variation within and between infected individuals and assessed its potential utility in tracking transmission in households. Over an entire single RSV season in coastal Kenya, nasal swabs were collected from members of 20 households every 3-4 days regardless of symptom status and screened for RSV nucleic acid. Next generation sequencing was used to generate >90% RSV full-length genomes for 51.1% of positive samples (191/374). Single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) observed during household infection outbreaks ranged from 0-21 (median: 3) while SNPs observed during single-host infection episodes ranged from 0-17 (median: 1). Using the viral genomic data alone there was insufficient resolution to fully reconstruct within-household transmission chains. For households with clear index cases, the most likely source of infant infection was via a toddler (aged 1 to <3 years-old) or school-aged (aged 6 to <12 years-old) co-occupant. However, for best resolution of WAIFW within households, we suggest an integrated analysis of RSV genomic and epidemiological data.

Original publication





Scientific reports

Publication Date





Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI)-Wellcome Trust Research Programme, Epidemiology and Demography Department, Kilifi, Kenya.


Humans, Respiratory Syncytial Viruses, Respiratory Syncytial Virus Infections, RNA, Viral, Contact Tracing, Family Characteristics, Disease Outbreaks, Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide, Genome, Viral, Child, Child, Preschool, Infant, Infant, Newborn, Kenya, Female, Male, High-Throughput Nucleotide Sequencing