Viral infections are the cause of many common illnesses, such as the flu and the common cold. The symptoms aren’t pleasant, and typically involve the well-known repertoire of coughing, sneezing, and achiness. But sometimes, symptoms from viral infections can be more severe. Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) infects most people before their second birthday. In many cases this infection does not cause serious illness in people with healthy immune systems. However, the number of hospitalizations and emergency room visits in children under five is higher by three times compared to instances caused by the flu . Additionally, 14,000 RSV-related deaths occur per year in the US in older adults . The best tool scientists have against viruses like RSV are vaccines.
The purpose of a vaccine is to trigger the body to create a long-lasting line of defense against a specific pathogen. This is accomplished by exposing the body to small pieces or a weakened version of the pathogen. Upon exposure to the infectious pathogen, the body will be prepared to fight it off. However, immunity isn’t created toward every pathogen equally. Some pathogens, like RSV, have no licensed vaccine. (more…)