Single jab to protect newborns from RSV cuts risk of illness by 75%


A single jab that can protect a newborn child against respiratory syncytial virus for their first winter reduces the risk of illness by 75 per cent, new data show in a world-first breakthrough.

RSV is responsible for roughly 29,000 paediatric hospitalisations every year and about 80 child deaths, according to the Oxford Vaccine Group.

There is currently no vaccination, treatment or preventative medicine and companies have spent decades searching for a way to combat the virus.

Scientists at AstraZeneca have now published phase three results of a trial involving almost 1,500 children showing promising results for nirsevimab, a purpose-built monoclonal antibody lovingly known in AZ HQ as “Nursey”.

They found that of the 994 children who got the medicine, just 12 (1.2 per cent) developed an RSV infection that needed medical attention. In contrast, in the 496-strong placebo group there were 25 cases (five per cent), making the treatment 74.5 per cent effective.

Hope to combat ‘devastating disease’

It is the first time there has been hope for a way to combat RSV over the long term.

“This is a devastating disease in infants and last year when Covid was abating a bit, there was quite a resurgence of RSV in the UK and I think it's important news and we're excited,” Dr Tonya Villafana, vice president of infection at AstraZeneca, who made the drug alongside Sanofi, told The Telegraph.

“It's really tough when your kid has an RSV infection because they're tiny and they can't breathe and they can't fend for themselves. So I think it's really exciting to be able to offer something to children and to their parents.”

The data are due to be submitted to the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) for approval later this year.

GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) is on the brink of reporting what is expected to be positive results of a potential RSV vaccine for both infants and the elderly.

But while GSK sought to perfect a vaccine that allows a person to make their own antibodies, AstraZeneca took a different approach and focused on making the antibodies and giving those to a person directly, bypassing the immune system.

“What we've been able to do here is to find a really potent anti-RSV F monoclonal antibody and extend the half-life so one shot will cover the infant for the entire RSV season,” said Dr Villafana.

“From our perspective, giving the infant the antibody when they're immunologically naive and protecting them when they're most vulnerable is the best approach.

“There's no reason to really anticipate that other approaches won't work, but I think we're first out of the gate on this and we'd have to see as the other approaches come online, how they would be used.”

The results are published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Source: Joe Pinkstone, Yahoo Style UK

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