Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is a common virus (germ) which causes respiratory illness. It is spread from person to person, usually in the colder months of the year, and can make both adults and children sick. RSV often causes mild illness like a cold. In some people though, RSV can lead to more severe illness. This is likely more common in people who already have lung or heart diseases, but it can also happen in healthy older adults. About 11,000 to 17,000 older adults in the United States (US) die of RSV illness each year, and roughly 10 times more are admitted into the hospital for care. Less information about RSV illness in older adults is available for Southern hemisphere countries like Australia. It is known that RSV is an important cause of hospitalization for children in the Southern hemisphere, similar to the US and Europe; so it is reasonable to expect that RSV is also a cause of disease in older adults in the Southern hemisphere.
At present, there is only one product approved to prevent RSV illness, and it is given only to very young children who are at the highest risk. There is no product available to prevent or treat RSV illness in adults. Scientists and doctors believe that a vaccine against RSV may be a good way to prevent RSV illness in older people. Novavax is developing a vaccine against RSV and has already tested it in over 8,000 people. One study in 1,600 older people and run in the winter of 2014-2015 in the USA showed the vaccine could protect against both mild and also more severe RSV illness. A second study run in the USA a year later in nearly 12,000 older people did not show the vaccine could protect people against RSV illness. The sponsor of this study thinks this might be because the RSV germ did not cause as much illness in older people as it did the year before, and that this may have made the vaccine effect hard to detect. It may also be that the vaccine needs to be improved in a way that makes its effects on the body’s immune system stronger. This new study will look for ways to improve the body’s immune response to the vaccine.
We will soon be recruiting for this study so if you are interested, please register below.