The National Health Research Institutes (NHRI) yesterday said its medical research team has developed a new and effective treatment for respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), a major cause of respiratory illness in young children, which is expected to be further developed into a vaccine.
RSV is a common respiratory virus that causes infections of the lungs and respiratory tract. It usually causes mild, cold-like symptoms, but it can become serious in some cases, especially in infants and older adults with weak immune systems or chronic disease.
About 1,000 young children are hospitalized for lower respiratory tract infections caused by RSV each year, and about 90 percent are under two years old, the NHRI said.
National Institute of Infectious Diseases and Vaccinology researcher Chow Yen-hung (周彥宏) said RSV infection can be dangerous because it can develop from a fever to become more serious, with symptoms including difficulty breathing, pneumonia, bronchitis, and even respiratory failure or death in only two to three days.
He said up to 10 percent of children under five years old infected with RSV may develop into serious cases and about 1 percent might die from the infection.
There is no specific treatment for RSV — only supportive care to prevent or treat the symptoms. Recombinant soluble RSV F proteins for preventing the virus is expensive and time-consuming, he added.
Chow said his research team developed a mucosal vector-based recombinant adenovirus vaccine containing F proteins that is sprayed into the nostrils, which can effectively control the severity of the infection and reduce lung inflammation, marking an important breakthrough in RSV infection treatment.
Experiments on rats also showed that two doses of the newly developed vaccine can provide protection for about a quarter of life expectancy, about 20 years.
He said the team has obtained a patent and is planning to start clinical trials on humans by the end of this year.
Hopefully, the vaccine can be produced and enter the market in three years, providing better protection from the infection for young children and elderly people, he said.
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