A new NIH study is just getting underway that will infect study participants with a strain of RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) to see how the infection develops and if anything can be done to create effective vaccines against the virus. The study will recruit 60 healthy adults between the ages of 18-50 who will likely only develop cold-like symptoms from having a drop of liquid containing RSV A2 placed in each nostril.
The participants will be given a low dose of RSV A2 or a high dose of the virus, with participants and researchers blinded as to who receives which dose. The participants will then be isolated in a hospital for up to two weeks, with parameters such as the symptoms the patient experiences, the way the immune system reacts to the infection, and air movement in and out of the participant’s lungs studied until the patient recovers from this self-limited lung disease.
RSV usually leads to no more than cold symptoms in healthy adults, although some of the adults in the study are expected to have no symptoms at all because of a lifelong immunity to the viral strain. In the human population as a whole, the elderly and the very young, including infants and preschoolers, tend to get very sick from RSV infections, which account for about 14,000 deaths per year in those adults older than age 65.
If the study is found to be helpful, a vaccine may be the next step in order to help prevent serious infections involving RSV in high risk populations. The current study will not use vaccines but will simply monitor the course of the disease in those people who are unlikely to get serious infections from RSV.
RSV has many strains. RSV A2 is a special research-form of the virus that is guaranteed not to contain other pathogens and that was laboratory-created from a single virus clone. While most healthy adults will be expected to simply catch a cold from exposure to the virus strain, some participants may become significantly ill and will be treated according to best practices in treating RSV infections.
The study, launched by the NIH, will look into the course of the disease under isolated conditions. The participants will be released from the hospital after they are no longer contagious but will follow up with the researchers for up to 180 days to see if the immunity from the RSV infection holds.
This research is necessary to see how RSV affects people and how immune response occurs. Ideally, this and other research on RSV will lead to a mechanism by which a vaccine can be created to help those who suffer more severely from the disease.