Specialists in respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) from the RSV Consortium in Europe received a grant worth 29 million euro (equal to about $30.8 million American) to study serious lung infections caused by the virus that affects mainly young children and older people.
RSV is to blame for many diseases estimated to affect over 30 million children under the age of 5 every year around the world. The virus also impacts older people and is more dangerous for those with fragile immune systems, including people with cancer or with chronic diseases like emphysema.
RSV infection causes breathing difficulties and wheezing, and can lead to severe respiratory conditions like pneumonia and bronchiolitis. The virus has no specific treatment and there is no vaccine. Current therapies can only alleviate the symptoms.
The RSV Consortium in Europe (RESCEU) research team, led by Harish Nair, a professor at the University of Edinburgh, aims to help improve the understanding and management of respiratory syncytial virus.
By gathering comprehensive statistics on the number of RSV cases across Europe each year, researchers will analyze patient samples to identify new biomarkers linked to severe RSV infections.
The consortium includes 18 universities, public health institutes and pharmaceutical companies that together will analyze the impact of the disease on the economy and the burden it represents to healthcare systems.
Based on the results, the team will define a set of best practice guidelines that can improve the way diseases caused by RSV are monitored, and to offer advice for vaccination programs in the future.
The group also aims to establish a framework to conduct Europe-wide clinical trials to test new medicines and vaccines against RSV that might improve treatment and prevention.
“We are at an opportune time to step up efforts to prevent RSV infection in children and elderly populations,” Nair said in a press release. “With more than 65 candidate vaccines in clinical development, it is likely that an RSV vaccine will be available in the next five to seven years.”
“Moreover, a range of treatments for RSV are also being developed. Our findings will provide better evidence to understand how these interventions should be best introduced, not only in Europe but also the rest of the world,” Nair added.
The funding is included in the European Union’s research and innovation program called Horizon 2020.