Vaccine to Combat Respiratory Disease in Preliminary Stages

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Respiratory Syncytial Virus, RSV, is most common in children under 2

    (NECN/NBC News: Doreen Gentzler) - Scientists say they're close to a vaccine that could prevent a severe respiratory disease that's common in children before the age of two.

    The condition is called Respiratory Syncytial Virus, or RSV. It causes infections in the lungs and respiratory tract.

    When adults get it, it's like a common cold, but when babies get it, they often have trouble breathing and end up in the hospital.

    "The one thing that stuck out was the fast breathing," said Renata Gould, Daryll’s mother. Daryll Gould wasn't eating or sleeping and he had a fever.

    Doctors told his mother, Renata, they had to admit him to the hospital.

    "It is scary because he's only 9 months old," Renata said.

    Daryll was diagnosed with bronchiolitis, an inflammation of the lower airways in the lungs, typically caused by RSV.

    "I like to think of it as the same congestion you get in your nose when you get a cold, but it's happening in your lower areas of your lungs, so causing more breathing symptoms there," said Dr. Aisha Davis of Children’s National Health System.

    Doctors say RSV infections can be serious. It's the leading cause of hospitalizations among infants, and 7 percent of all childhood deaths are caused by RSV related pneumonia.

    "It’s really one of the most serious viral diseases that afflict children. Also, elderly people can get affected and get sick, particularly those older than 65-years-old," explained Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the national institute for allergy and infectious diseases at the National Institutes of Health.

    Scientists at the National Institutes of Health say they're close to a vaccine to save some of these lives.

    Using complex technology, researchers created 3D models of the virus before it invades the body.  From there, they were able to isolate parts of the virus that they were never able to see before.  

    In animal testing, those compounds actually were able to stop an RSV infection.

    "You could predict that it's going to have a protective effect on humans," Dr. Fauci said.

    Dr. Fauci says this is the first time scientists have seen such promising research in the fight against RSV.

    Currently, there is no real treatment for RSV. Patients usually just need to wait it out.

    That's what little Daryll Gould is doing. He's been at Children's National Health System for two days.

    "He is doing a lot better, a lot more active. He's not fully himself, but he's a lot more active," his mother said.

    The next step is to test the vaccine on humans in a clinical trial. If all goes well, an RSV vaccine should be on the market in the next few years.