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RSV Infection in Infants and Young Children

Respiratory syncytial virus (“RSV”) is a respiratory virus that infects the lungs and airways. While healthy people typically experience only mild, cold-like symptoms, and quickly recover, RSV can cause serious disease in infants, young children, and the elderly.

First identified in the 1950’s, RSV is now recognized as a leading cause of disease worldwide – among children in their first year of life, malaria is the only other single pathogen with a higher death toll. Globally, RSV is estimated to be responsible for 34 million cases of pediatric distal airway disease each year, resulting in approximately 200,000 deaths.

RSV-associated mortality is observed primarily in low and middle-income countries. In the U.S., and in other high-income nations, RSV mortality rates are significantly lower, due to the availability of hospital-based care. Supportive care for RSV-infected infants typically includes the administration of supplemental oxygen and intravenous fluids. In acute cases, mechanical ventilation can be used to assist or replace spontaneous breathing.

Despite the availability of care, RSV is a pervasive and costly disease. In the U.S., 2% – 3% of infants are hospitalized for RSV in their first year of life. About 50% of those hospitalizations occur before six months and 50% occur between six months and five years.

For every child that is hospitalized, many more will be treated in an outpatient setting. According to the CDC, among U.S. children under five years of age, RSV infection will result in 2.1 million annual outpatient visits and 57,527 hospitalizations.

A 2004 study that assessed the costs of RSV infection in the U.S. estimated the direct medical costs at $652 million, with $394 million spent on hospital-related care.

An RSV Vaccine for Infants and Young Children

Currently, there are no approved vaccines for the prevention of RSV. The introduction of an RSV vaccine has the potential to substantially reduce both hospitalizations and outpatient visits. An RSV vaccine could also have an impact on infant mortality, particularly in low-resource settings.

A key goal in developing an RSV vaccine is to protect those with weaker immune systems, especially young children, from primary RSV infection. In older children and healthy adults, hospitalization is rare, with the infection typically restricted to the upper airways.

In young infants, an RSV vaccine could help prevent lower respiratory tract disease. Further, an RSV vaccine has the potential to reduce the need for outpatient care, and could have other important ancillary benefits, including a reduction in the incidence of childhood wheezing and middle-ear infections.

VBI’s RSV Vaccine Program

VBI plans to apply its enveloped virus-like particle (“eVLP”) vaccine platform to develop a novel RSV vaccine candidate. Learn more about our RSV Vaccine Program >>