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Antibody jab approved for common winter virus RSV

A new treatment to protect babies against a common and potentially dangerous winter virus has been approved by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).

Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is the main reason children under five end up in hospital. In a normal winter, RSV mostly causes coughs and colds which clear up in a couple of weeks - but it can be particularly serious in infants under the age of two, causing severe lung problems such as bronchiolitis and pneumonia. Every year, about 29,000 babies need hospital care for RSV and most have no other health issues beforehand.

The new antibody treatment, called nirsevimab, from Sanofi and AstraZeneca, has already been shown to reduce lower respiratory tract infections caused by RSV by 74.5% in trials involving 4,000 babies.

It works by preventing RSV from fusing to cells in the respiratory tract and causing infections.

But it still needs more research in larger numbers of babies before it can be used on the NHS.

Researchers now plan to investigate whether it can cut the number of babies needing hospital care for RSV, and are urging parents to sign up to their study.

The study is open to newborn babies and those up to 12 months old. Only one visit for the antibody injection is needed, and follow-up sessions happen via an app.

Co-study leader Dr Simon Drysdale, consultant paediatrician in infectious diseases at London's St George's Hospital, said the treatment could eventually be given at birth to offer protection for the first months of life, or during routine immunisations at two months old.

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Source: 10 November 2022


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