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 and up to 199,000 deaths in children under five years old, 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 investigating promising new vaccine technologies with the potential to help control RSV in the developing world through prevention. 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 vaccines 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. We’re exploring partnerships with vaccine developers and researchers from industry, academia, and other institutions to advance the development of low-cost RSV vaccines that can ultimately be safe, effective, and affordable for use in maternal immunization strategies appropriate for the developing world. Among the vaccine technologies that we’re exploring to induce an appropriate immune response are subunit vaccines, which utilize only specific pieces of the RSV virus.

RSV vaccine technology landscape

PATH is maintaining an RSV vaccine technology landscape snapshot (384.45 KB PDF) in order to track the development of RSV vaccine candidates and provide a summary of all the various vaccine approaches being worked on worldwide. You are welcome to use the document, but we ask that you acknowledge PATH. Please email pvs@path.org with any additions or changes.

Additional resources

Comments are closed.