Professionals talk about RSV

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Professionals talk about RSV

Prof. Dr. Louis Bont

Paediatrician, infectiologist immunologist at UMC Utrecht

“Unfortunately, few parents know about RSV. RSV infections cause a heavy burden on children and their parents. Every winter, paediatric wards and intensive care units are filled with babies infected with the virus. However, RSV does not only affect young children, the elderly are also more susceptible to severe RSV disease, especially if they suffer from heart or lung disease. RSV patients have trouble breathing because the virus damages

the airways, but also because of the immune response against the virus.

RSV is very unfair, because most children dying from RSV infection live in developing countries  due to lack of intensive care facilities. There is no vaccine or medicine to treat RSV yet, but WHO and pharmaceutical industry are

working hard at it. Currently, there are two important developments in preventing serious RSV disease in children:

1. a maternal vaccine. Pregnant women are vaccinated to generate antibodies against the virus which are subsequently transmitted to the baby through the umbilical  cord and breast milk. This vaccine is similar to the maternal vaccine against Whooping cough (Pertussis). It protects the child from severe RSV infection during the first months of life.

2. a new antibody. This antibody is given by injection to new-borns and – like the maternal vaccine – protects them from severe RSV infection for several months.

We expect these new preventive immunisation methods to be available within the next 5 years. In the meantime it is important to raise public awareness about RSV. This will improve care for infected children and accelerate vaccine development.

Anne Teirlinck

Epidemiologist respiratory infections at RIVM (Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment)

At RIVM I work at the Centre for Infectious Diseases, Epidemiology and Surveillance. We analyse and monitor the occurrence and trends in infectious diseases in the Netherlands.  The focus of my work is on respiratory infections. One of the things we do is register the number of people in the Netherlands with flu or flu like symptoms on a weekly basis. The symptoms of RSV infections are quite similar to those of the flu and lab tests are necessary to distinguish the RSV cases. Because the severity of infection varies a lot, we collect RSV incidence data at hospitals as well as GP practices.

RSV Vaccine
Unfortunately, there is no vaccine against RSV yet. However, there are quite a few vaccines in development. If one of them makes it to the market, it is important to know who needs it most. In order to prepare for potential vaccine introduction we need to learn more about the risks groups of severe RSV. That is why we are actively involved in the RESCEU study on the RSV burden of disease in Europe. Once the vaccine is introduction we need also need to monitor the effects of the vaccine. Again, we will do this together with various healthcare partners like GP practices and hospitals.

To improve RSV surveillance in general we cooperate with international public health institutions, mainly in Europe but also in other parts of the world. We need each other to gain better understanding of RSV, to share knowledge and expertise and to follow global developments in the field of RSV.

My personal experience with RSV
I do not work with RSV patients directly, but from the experiences of others I know about the impact severe RSV disease can have on patients and their families. I am therefore happy that through my work I can make a contribution to generate more knowledge and understanding about RSV.