Oxford University researchers working on new childhood vaccine

The Oxford Vaccine Group (OVG), a research group within the Department of Paediatrics at Oxford University, is developing an immunisation against respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). RSV, a cause of viral chest infections, is the second most dangerous global health hazard in infants after malaria. The trial of a first RSV vaccine candidate was successfully conducted by the OVG in August. Now, based on these results, further clinical trials of a new version are set to begin soon.

While adults can also be infected by the RS virus, it does not constitute more than a mild cold for most. For people belonging to vulnerable populations, however, mainly infants but also the elderly and persons with a weak immune system, the virus can have serious consequences, leading to infections of the lungs and the respiratory tract. Especially in regions where access to health-care is compromised, RSV can be a death sentence, killing about 200,000 people around the world every year.

In the UK, about 70 percent of all children get infected with RSV before they even reach the age of one. In five percent of these cases medical attention is required. In the winter months RSV-caused infections are particularly prevalent among infants. “As a paediatrician I am all too aware of the enormous burden of disease that RSV brings every winter. It is tremendously exciting to be part of an RSV vaccine programme, and the current study is an important next step towards developing a vaccine to be used in infants”, said Dr Matthew Snape, Chief Investigator of the current study.

The potential vaccine under scrutiny – called ChAd155-RSV – is a so-called ‘viral vectored vaccine’, meaning that it uses a virus to set off the intended immune response. The vaccine is split into two shots, the first triggering the immune system to react, the second reinforcing that reaction. Initially, the vaccine will be tested on healthy adults in a ‘Phase One trial’. Beyond testing the effectiveness of a drug, a Phase One Trial is supposed to evaluate body reaction, side effects and appropriate dosage. If successful, it will pave the way for clinical trials in the vulnerable group that needs this vaccine the most: children.

Currently, the research group is looking for 72 volunteers from Oxford between the age of 18 and 45 for the upcoming trial. If interested, call 01865 857420 or visit www.ovg.ox.ac.uk/trials/RSV.


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