Research on RSV has been a hot topic since the 1960s, when the formalin-inactivated RSV vaccine was found to increase severity of disease rather than combat the common cold. The common cold continues to be deadly, causing about 60,000 hospitalizations of children under 5 and 200,000 hospitalizations (14,000 deaths) among those 65 and older yearly. Today, there is still no successful vaccine nor specific antiviral treatment for RSV, a pneumovirus.
A group at the Perelman School of Medicine, including lead author Gaia Muallem, MD, has been using the Sendai virus mouse model-- a parainfluenza virus model that causes similar clinical and pathological effects as RSV-- to assess the immune response against RSV infection. They've recently identified the importance of the cytokine IL-27 in fighting the virus. In one experiment, blocking IL-27 signaling resulted in mice that suffered more severe disease and had higher mortality rates. It is thought that IL-27 mediates the level of a certain T-cell downstream pathway, Th2 responses. Excessive levels of Th2 signaling increases the severity of disease.
At this point of the research, the group at Perelman has only identified IL-27 as a candidate. We are still many years of clinical studies away from seeing it in drugstores as a nasal spray.
Review on RSV vaccines:
-- Sharon Kam