Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) kills around 200,000 people worldwide each year. Both the elderly and infants are especially vulnerable to developing severe disease with RSV. Two-thirds of babies are infected with RSV before their first birthday and in winter the virus causes annual epidemics resulting in up to 15 out of every 100 admissions to children’s wards. In the world’s poorer areas, RSV is second only to malaria as a killer of children aged between 1 and 12 months.
In early August, the Oxford Vaccine Group, part of the University’s Department of Paediatrics, announced that the first trial of a different potential RSV vaccine had been successful. Building on the results of this study, the Group is ready to begin trials of a new version of this potential RSV vaccine.
As a paediatrician I am all too aware of the enormous burden of disease that RSV brings every winter.
Dr Matthew Snape, Oxford Vaccine Group
Dr Matthew Snape from the Oxford Vaccine Group, is Chief Investigator leading the study of the new vaccine candidate. He explained: ‘Vaccine development is a long process and it is important to ensure that the best potential vaccine is taken forward for testing in larger numbers. This is why we are testing a new version of the vaccine.
‘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.’
The potential vaccine is known as a ‘viral vectored vaccine.’ That means that it uses a virus (the vector), in this case an adenovirus called ChAd155, to carry proteins from RSV that trigger the immune system to respond against it. Neither the RSV proteins nor the carrier virus can replicate and cause infection. Two injections are used: the first is expected to stimulate the immune system to prompt a response; the second is expected to strengthen the immune response triggered by the first. The complete modified product is called ChAd155-RSV.
To assess this new vaccine, the team is planning to carry out what is called a phase 1 clinical trial. In this phase, a small number of healthy adult volunteers receive the vaccine to assess whether it is safe and tolerated and it prompts the immune system to respond. If successful, it is planned that further trials will assess the effectiveness and safety of ChAd155-RSV in children – the main group who would benefit from a licensed RSV vaccine.
They are now looking for 72 volunteers from in and around Oxford, aged between 18 and 45. To find out more visit www.ovg.ox.ac.uk/trials/RSV or call 01865 857420.
University of Oxford