The respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is one of those pathogens against which experts have long wanted a vaccine. Discovered more than 60 years ago, the virus can cause serious, sometimes fatal diseases of the lower respiratory tract, especially the bronchi and lungs, especially in children and the elderly. Particularly violent waves have been recorded in the past two years. Now the chances are pretty good that vaccines will be available in the foreseeable future.
The most advanced is a candidate from the British pharmaceutical company GSK, which is already in the accelerated approval process at the European Medicines Agency (EMA). On Thursday, the latest study data were published in the journal New England Journal of Medicine presented.
The vaccine has been tested on nearly 25,000 people aged 60 and over. The seniors who received one dose of the vaccine were subsequently 83 percent better protected against lower respiratory tract disease than those in the placebo group. Effectiveness against serious illnesses was 94 percent. The authors of the analysis gave the product an “acceptable safety profile”. The main consequences of the vaccination were pain at the injection site and fatigue.
It is still unclear how long the substance will immunize those who have been vaccinated
The tests, carried out in 17 countries, have already reached the third and final phase of the study. Nevertheless, the study will continue because it is still unclear how long the effect of the vaccine will last. The data just published covers only one RSV season. Whether the vaccinated people are also protected in the longer term or whether they need regular immunizations still needs to be investigated.
The vaccine is a so-called protein-based vaccine: It does not present the immune system with whole pathogens, but only protein fragments. The method is not new. It is used, for example, in the vaccines against hepatitis B, HPV or the Covid vaccine from Novavax.
Also on Thursday were Results of Janssen’s RSV vaccine candidate in the New England Journal presented. This so-called vector vaccine is also aimed at older people. It was tested as part of a phase 2 study that included about 5,800 people. Depending on the severity of the disease, the effectiveness was between 70 and 80 percent. Side effects were mostly mild to moderate.
A total of around a dozen vaccines against the pathogen are currently being tested as part of phase 2 or 3 studies. These include vaccines for small children. Another approach is to develop vaccines for pregnant women so that they can pass on the protective antibodies to their children.