Working to Prevent Respiratory Syncytial Virus in All Infants

Sanofi has partnered with AstraZeneca to double down on the two companies’ commitments to finally help bring RSV, a pervasive and life-threatening infection for very young children, under control in the future.  We have extensive initiatives underway to help better understand, engage and support health care providers, patients and their families both today and in the future–work that we hope one day will include supporting effective immunization programs.

The evolving COVID-19 pandemic is so ubiquitous, not only in the virus’ spread but also in its share of media attention, it may feel hard to think about anything else. But it’s critical to maintain focus and public dialogue on medical progress against other life-threatening infectious diseases, too. In addition to the search for a vaccine against COVID-19, Sanofi continues to develop new medicines and vaccines for other diseases, despite new challenges brought by the pandemic.

Among this work is a partnership with pharmaceutical company, AstraZeneca, in which the companies are seeking to extend protection against respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV. What many don’t know is that RSV is a common respiratory infection–one that it is so pervasive it threatens every child in their first years of life.1 If this fact surprises you, it’s because most people are not familiar with the name of the virus–only the various respiratory symptoms it causes in the very young.

All infants at risk from RSV

If you’re a parent, you’ll likely remember the dread that came during winter or rainy months when your child was very young. Respiratory infections are common in cold or wet seasons at young ages, and some cases can be quite severe and scary for parents. If your infant had bronchiolitis–a common lung infection that causes inflammation of the small airway passages, coughing, wheezing and difficulty breathing–it’s likely your newborn had an RSV infection.

Key figures RSV
Baptiste in hospital

Baptiste was only one when he was hospitalized for RSV. 
He is now three years old and continues to struggle with asthma during the winter season.

Studies show that 90% of infants are infected with RSV in the first two years of life. The virus is the leading cause of hospitalizations in infants less than one year of age.2 And in some babies, the virus can lead to severe outcomes, like pneumonia, or bronchiolitis. The impact of RSV is often more severe in the very young–those under six months of age.

“The surprising fact is that 80% of infants hospitalized for severe cases are young babies who are full term and otherwise healthy, having no prior underlying health conditions,” says Su-Peing Ng, Global Medical Head for Vaccines at Sanofi.3 “There are no treatments against RSV and anxious parents have to hope their baby will overcome the disease with time and supportive care. Unfortunately for some, RSV can lead to more severe, or life-threatening outcomes.4

While many companies have worked to develop a prevention for RSV, many of those efforts have not been successful. In fact, the one existing preventative measure for RSV has been developed only for very high-risk infants: those born premature or who have other underlying lung or heart conditions.  This measure requires monthly injections during the RSV season.

“Because every infant is at risk from RSV, the two companies have teamed up to develop a new preventative solution that could help extend protection to all infants,” Dr Ng says.

Awareness: the first step to prevention

The partnership continues clinical trials for the development of a passive immunization while also supporting disease awareness among the public, both directly and with patient associations and research organizations such as RESCEU (Respiratory Syncytial Virus Consortium in Europe).  
On the Sanofi-AstraZeneca partnership, Dr. Ng says that, “Together our teams hope to improve healthcare for countless young children in their first year of life by empowering healthcare providers and parents to protect their babies against often traumatizing RSV infections.”

In the end, as RSV threatens every baby, both companies aim to making it a preventable disease for all infants.

mum with a baby

Find Out More About RSV

Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV), a common and contagious seasonal virus, is a leading cause of lower respiratory tract infection, mainly bronchiolitis and pneumonia, in infants and young children, resulting in annual epidemics worldwide.

References

[1] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About RSV. https://www.cdc.gov/rsv/about/index.html. Accessed November 2019.
[2] Adamko DJ, Friesen M.  Why does respiratory syncytiual virus appear tot cause Asthma?  Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.  2012; 130(1);101-102. Doi: 10.1016.j.jaci.2012.05.024
[3] Hall CB, et al. Respiratory Syncytial Virus-Associated Hospitalizations Among Children Less Than 24 Months of Age. Pediatrics, 132(2). doi: 10.1542/peds.2013-0303
[4] Piedimonte G, Perez M. Respiratory Syncytial Virus Infection and Bronchiolitis. Pediatrics in Review (2014) 35:519-530.

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