'The renaissance of RSV': Recent studies show progress for vaccine

After decades of setbacks toward developing a respiratory syncytial virus vaccine, late-stage clinical trials are hinting at a new spark for the previously burnt out research field, The Washington Post reported Oct. 10. 

RSV was first detected in the mid-1900s as it surpassed influenza infection rates. One of the first pediatric vaccines for the common virus backfired, and a 14-month-old and a 16-month-old died from it, according to the Post. In the following decades, RSV vaccine candidates have failed to prove efficacy. Over the past few years, though, drugmakers have leaped forward in their efforts. 

"We call it the renaissance of RSV," Octavio Ramilo, MD, infectious diseases pediatrician at Columbus-based Nationwide Children's Hospital, told the Post. "After all these years … it's a very exciting time for us."

Currently, there is no vaccine authorized to treat RSV, which disproportionately affects children younger than 5 and adults 65 and older, according to the CDC. Every year, about 100 to 300 young children and 14,000 older adults die from the virus. 

Since June, GSK and Pfizer have both announced promising results from their respective RSV vaccine candidates. In a phase 3 trial, GSK's vaccine intended for adults 60 and older reduced severe diseases in 94.1 percent of study participants, the London-based company said Oct. 13. In late August, Pfizer announced that its candidate was 85.7 percent effective at preventing severe disease among the same population. 

For the younger population, one shot of AstraZeneca and Sanofi's RSV vaccine candidate was 74.5 percent effective at preventing infants from requiring medical attention, a phase 3 trial published March 3 in The New England Journal of Medicine found.

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