New Tools to Fight RSV: Monoclonal Antibody and Maternal Vaccination

New Tools to Fight RSV: Monoclonal Antibody and Maternal Vaccination

RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) is a highly contagious virus that causes mild respiratory symptoms in most people but can be severe in infants and the elderly. It is the number one cause of hospitalization for infants in the US and Europe, with millions of cases and thousands of deaths each year worldwide. The lack of public awareness about RSV is concerning, given its significant impact on public health.

However, there is some good news: recent scientific advancements have provided two promising tools to combat RSV-related illness and mortality. The first is a monoclonal antibody drug called nirsevimab, which has been approved in the UK and US. Clinical trials have shown that it is about 77% effective in preventing hospitalizations and medical interventions for RSV. Babies who received a single dose of nirsevimab experienced an 83% reduction in hospital admissions compared to those who had standard care.

The second tool is a vaccine administered to pregnant women, providing passive immunity to their infants. This vaccine contains a lab-made version of an RSV surface protein that stimulates the production of antibodies in the vaccinated mother. These antibodies are then passed to the fetus through the placenta, providing protection in the first few months of life.

Both the monoclonal antibody and maternal vaccination approaches have shown promising results in clinical trials, significantly reducing the burden of RSV-related illness. However, there are challenges in implementing these interventions in healthcare systems, particularly in terms of cost. The price of nirsevimab and the maternal vaccine can be a barrier to widespread accessibility.

Efforts are underway to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies to reduce the prices of these treatments. Some countries, such as Galicia in Spain, have already added nirsevimab to their immunization programs, while others, including France, Belgium, Italy, and Luxembourg, are considering it. However, the cost challenge remains a significant obstacle, not just for high-income countries but also for low-income regions where RSV mortality rates are high.

Despite the challenges, the availability of these new tools brings hope for preventing severe RSV infections in infants. By rolling out the monoclonal antibody and maternal vaccination quickly and effectively, the burden of RSV on healthcare systems can be significantly reduced. This represents another triumph for science and a step toward improving global public health.

– Chair of Global Public Health at the University of Edinburgh, Prof Devi Sridhar

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