The discovery of Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) dates back to the 1950s. In 1955, a virus was isolated from a group of 14 chimpanzees suffering from respiratory illness at the Baltimore Zoological Gardens. The virus was initially known as chimpanzee coryza agent (CCA).
This virus was later named respiratory syncytial virus or RSV after neutralizing antibodies were found in schoolchildren.
RSV Vaccine development
Although RSV was isolated in the late fifties, the journey to developing an RSV vaccine has been fraught with challenges.
Around the same time that RSV was discovered, the Salk vaccine, based on an inactivated poliovirus, proved highly effective against the polio virus. So, in the 1960s, researchers tested an RSV vaccine based on a formalin-inactivated RSV virus.
However, these trials were disastrous and introduced severe lung inflammation and even resulted in the deaths of two infants. This type of reaction is known as a vaccine-associated enhanced respiratory disease (ERD).
This halted further vaccine development for a while, but eventually, testing and research continued. As a result, effective vaccines are being authorized for use.
The US FDA approved the first RSV vaccine on March 03, 2023. The vaccine known as Arexy is approved for the prevention of lower respiratory tract disease from RSV in individuals 60 and older.
On July 17, 2023, the US FDA approved Beyfortus (nirsevimab-alip) to help prevent lower respiratory tract disease from RSV in newborns and infants born during or entering their first RSV season. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also recommends the vaccine for children aged 8 – 19 months who are at a higher risk of getting severe RSV.