How you can help Norfolk researchers develop a vaccine for RSV

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Posted at 5:25 PM, Sep 01, 2021

NORFOLK, Va. - A virus that's typically seen during winter months is now having an uptick during the summer, the CDC reports.

As cases of RSV, respiratory syncytial virus, increase, Norfolk researchers are closer to finding a vaccine.

"RSV has been been on our doorstep for a long time," said Dr. Mary Bailey, MD, a physician investigator with the Alliance for Multispecialty Research in Norfolk. "What we're seeing now in the U.S., again per CDC surveillance data, is a rise in reported cases within children at this point during the summer months."

Bailey, who is board-certified in internal medicine and pathology, has been studying RSV and said the virus can cause bronchitis or pneumonia. Adding to that, she said while the effects on children have been well-researched, there's limited data on adults, especially those with chronic diseases or weakened immune systems.

"What we do see is a significant number of hospitalizations as a result of RSV," she said.

To better understand the virus and help patients, the team at AMR has launched the worldwide Phase 3 RSV vaccine clinical trial, designed for anyone 60 years and older.

"Phase one and two, the early phases which are done on healthy volunteers, have already passed muster and have shown to be showing this vaccine, this investigatory vaccine, to be both effective by these early measures."

In phase three, Bailey said, data will be focused on whether or not different ages within the over-60 population mount an immune response from the vaccine product.

According to AMR, every year, RSV causes an estimated 14,000 deaths in people 60+ in the U.S. and an estimated 200-500 deaths in children. Currently, there is no commercial vaccine to prevent RSV in adults or children.

However, through this trial, local researchers are hoping the medical advancements could one day be lifesaving.

"We need participants and we appreciate participants. This is how all vaccines really all medications are brought to the general public," Bailey said.

AMR is looking for anyone 60 and older to participate. It is a multi-year trial, but volunteers will be compensated for their time.

"Why does it take so long to get statistical significance to demonstrate both effectiveness against this virus as well as safety? We have to follow participants over a longer stretch for this virus because it's not a year-round virus," Bailey said.

It should be noted that RSV and COVID-19 have very similar symptoms. RSV, Bailey said, is a lot like the common cold where people can have a cough, fever and trouble breathing. These are much like COVID-19 symptoms which include fever, fatigue and shortness of breath.

Medical experts said the best way to decipher between the viruses, or even the flu, is to get a COVID-19 test.

To prevent any illness, they recommend practicing proper hygiene, wearing a mask and staying home if you don't feel well.