AUSTIN (KXAN) — An experimental vaccine which fights respiratory syncytial virus, better known as RSV, has shown promise in its early stages in successfully fighting the illness.

According to a report published on Thursday by the medical journal Science, the vaccine, distributed in a human trial, revealed a boost in antibodies to fight the virus. It also proved that a “successful RSV vaccine will be feasible.”

RSV is one of the leading causes of infectious disease deaths in infants and is most dangerous in children and the elderly. For infants less than one-year-old, RSV is second only to malaria for infectious disease deaths.

Jason McLellan, an associate professor in the molecular biosciences department at the University of Texas-Austin helped develop the vaccine. He said the first stage of the experimental process is complete: a small dose of the vaccine elicited a positive response which lasted several months.

The vaccine would be given to pregnant mothers in their third trimester. It would immediately boost the antibody response to the developing child and protect them for the first six to seven months of their life, also the period when most RSV attacks occur.

“You give it to the mother to help protect the infant,” McLellan said. “We are trying to push back the age of that first infection to the point where their bodies are more robust to handle it.”

Other scientists have developed vaccines for RSV, but many have failed. McLellan brainstormed a new way to create the vaccine using a structure-based theory.

This version keeps the virus’ proteins in their original form, making the vaccine more effective.

“Phase one is safety…we want to see if the vaccine is eliciting the type of antibodies and the quantity we want in a small number of healthy adults,” McLellan said. “Phase two and three are looking at advocacy. Are we successfully preventing severe disease and having an effect on public health?”

McLellan said phase two of the clinical trial is ongoing, being carried about by Glaxo Smith Cline.

There is still a long way to go before this vaccine is FDA approved and rolled out to the public. McLellan said he hopes distribution begins by 2024.

“Being able to to try to create a vaccine that affects everyone, especially the most vulnerable, the weakest and the oldest, it’s exciting to work on that,” McLellan said.

RSV in Central Texas

In December 2018, doctors at Baylor Scott and White told KXAN they were seeing a spike in RSV cases in Central Texas.

The symptoms of RSV are similar to a cold including:

  • cough
  • stuffy or running nose
  • mild sore throat
  • earache
  • fever

Babies with RSV may also:

  • Have no energy
  • Act fussy or cranky
  • Be less hungry than usual

However, doctors say RSV is more than a cold and added if wheezing, rapid breathing, and constricted airways are present these are good indicators to head to the hospital and get tested for the virus. 

If your child has RSV:

  • Prop up your child’s head to make it easier to breathe and sleep.
  • Suction your baby’s nose if he or she can’t breathe well enough to eat or sleep.
  • Control fever with acetaminophen or ibuprofen.

A long road ahead

Most drugs take more than 10 years to make their way to the marketplace.

After developing the drug, it goes through pre-clinical research. Researchers look into whether it could seriously hurt people.

Every part of the process is then reviewed by the FDA. The agency then has six to ten months to decided whether or not to approve the drug.