Vaccine Development Global Program

Respiratory syncytial virus

Vaccine development against a major cause of childhood respiratory illness

Mother with newborn.

Photo courtesy of the David and Lucile Packard Foundation.

Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is a disease that causes infections of the lower respiratory tract, mainly in infants and young children. Globally, RSV is responsible for over 30 million new acute lower respiratory infection episodes annually, resulting in more than 3.4 million hospital admissions associated with severe RSV disease. One-third of RSV related deaths occur in the first year of life, with 99 percent of these deaths occurring in low-resource countries. It’s so widespread in the United States that nearly all children become infected with the virus before their second birthdays.

Despite these impacts, no vaccine yet exists for RSV, leaving children vulnerable to infection and putting a heavy burden on caregivers and health care systems, particularly in the developing world where medical resources are limited and associated costs cause great economic hardship. The development of a vaccine against RSV is critical to protecting infants and children from this wide-reaching disease, particularly in the earliest months of life.

Finding a way to prevent RSV

PATH is advancing the development of new technologies with the potential to prevent RSV disease in the developing world. Because infants need the most immediate protection from RSV—with peak hospitalization rates occurring in children from birth to five months of age—the goal of our RSV project is to advance the development of interventions that can prevent serious RSV morbidity and mortality as early as possible in these youngest children.

Maternal immunization is one approach that holds promise for providing this kind of immediate protection for infants. Studies have shown that administering certain vaccines to pregnant women can help improve the mother-to-child transmission of antibodies, which can provide critical protection during the early stage of a newborn’s life when direct vaccination is not an effective option. Another means of providing antibody protection to the infant is administering a dose of neutralizing monoclonal antibody at birth. We’re collaborating with developers and researchers from industry, academia, and other institutions to advance the development of RSV interventions appropriate for the developing world.

RSV vaccine technology landscape

rsv-snapshot-september2016PATH is maintaining an RSV vaccine technology landscape snapshot (52.55 KB PDF) to provide a quick view of all the various RSV prevention approaches being undertaken worldwide. You are welcome to use the document, but we ask that you acknowledge PATH. This snapshot is updated every six months. Please email with any additions or changes. (See PowerPoint version.)

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