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Respiratory Syncytial Virus Vaccine Coming Soon?
A vaccine against the widespread and sometimes fatal respiratory syncytial virus (the most common cause of acute respiratory problems in children) is difficult to develop, but a new discovery has brought successful vaccination a big step closer.
In the current study by Ohio State University, important findings were made which could help in the search for a vaccine against the so-called respiratory syncytial virus. The results of the study were published in the English language journal "Nature Communications" and recently presented at the annual conference of the American Society for Virology.
What are the requirements for an RSV vaccine?
Researchers have long been looking for a vaccine against the Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV). This vaccine must be weak enough not to cause negative side effects in humans, yet it must be strong enough to trigger a comprehensive immune response that ensures that the body will recognize the respiratory syncytial virus as an intruder in the future and quickly provide a protective defense .
Researchers create modified forms of RSV
The researchers managed to eliminate an epigenetic modification known as N6-methyladenosine in RSV RNA. Using a new technique called reverse genetics, the researchers generated a form of the respiratory syncytial virus that has defects in N6-methyladenosine methylation. This suppressed the virus and triggered an immune response in rats.
Modified virus could improve the innate immune response
Use of this modified virus in a vaccine would likely improve a person's innate immune response. This approach could also work with viruses similar to human metapneumovirus and human parainfluenza virus 3, the researchers suspect. The new discovery could also make vaccine production more economically viable, as it does not slow the growth of RSV in the laboratory, which is a crucial step in vaccine production, the research group reports.
Older people and infants are particularly at risk
RSV is common, spreads quickly, and usually causes mild, flu-like symptoms. But in severe cases, especially in infants under the age of one and older people, the virus can be life-threatening. Worldwide, more than 80,000 children die from these infections each year, the researchers add. An effective and affordable vaccine could save tens of thousands of lives every year.
How could we protect our children with new vaccines?
Work is currently underway to develop a vaccine that can be administered to pregnant mothers who in turn produce antibodies and pass them on to their fetus before birth to prevent RSV in infancy. But at six months, that protection fades again. A vaccine based on the new study would be given to a baby around this time to stimulate the baby's immune system. For example, the baby's body will produce its own antibodies and T cells next winter so that a serious illness when infected with RSV is avoided, explains the research group.
Vaccine has to be effective, genetically stable and safe
When the modification is made in the genome of the virus, the cells that infect the virus produce a strong and earlier immune response. In particular, they produce more interferon, an early distress signal that acts as the first line of defense. It was not easy to make progress in developing an RSV vaccine, the researchers report. Since the 1960s, research has focused on a live, weakened vaccine. However, it is a special challenge to develop a vaccine that is genetically stable and offers the right balance between safety and protection. The results of the new study bring us a big step closer to an effective vaccine against RSV, according to the research group. (as)
Author and source information
This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.
- Miaoge Xue, Boxuan Simen Zhao, Zijie Zhang, Mijia Lu, Olivia Harder et al .: Viral N6-methyladenosine upregulates replication and pathogenesis of human respiratory syncytial virus, in Nature Communications (query: 09.10.2019), Nature Communications