As Covid-19 and monkeypox gain global attention, new research work sheds light on another viral disease, the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), which kills more than 100,000 children worldwide every year.
RSV is the most common cause of acute lower respiratory tract infections in infants and young children worldwide, but Respiratory Syncytial Virus Consortium in Europe.
Lower respiratory tract infections affect the airways below the larynx, including the trachea and tiny air sacs in the lungs. These include acute bronchitis, bronchiolitis and pneumonia.
The figures are published in Lancet show that more than 95% of RSV-related acute lower respiratory tract infections and more than 97% of RSV-related deaths among children under five years of age occur in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs).
“RSV is an important cause of death from lower respiratory tract infections in children, especially infants,” says Anand Krishnan, study author and professor at the Center for Public Medicine at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi. .
“Despite this, there are very few routine tests for RSV in the clinical setting, even in tertiary healthcare settings. [specialised health care] institutions, primarily due to the lack of specific treatment.
Researchers from countries such as India, South Africa, the UK and the US note that RSV plays a significant role in the suffering and death of young children worldwide, especially in the first six months of life and in low- and middle-income countries. countries.
They found that internationally, RSV disease causes one in every 50 deaths in children under five years of age and one in every 28 deaths in children aged 28 days to six months.
The researchers analyzed 481 studies and calculated that in 2019, there were 33 million episodes of RSV-related acute lower respiratory infections and 101,400 RSV-related deaths among children under five years of age. For infants under six months of age, the estimated figures were 6.6 million and 45,700, respectively.
“The disproportionately high burden of RSV in younger age groups in low- and middle-income countries calls for more community-based case management and effective and affordable immunization programs,” the study says.
There is no specific vaccine against RSV, but researchers are calling for passive immunization programs to fight the disease. Instead of a vaccine that provides active immunity, passive immunization provides a person with antibodies, proteins produced in the body in response to a foreign invader or antigen.
The researchers recommend that passive immunization programs that provide protection against RSV in the first six months of life could significantly reduce the burden of RSV. But they say more data is needed on this approach.
The researchers were also surprised to find that hospital admissions for children under six months of age were “consistently lower” in low- and middle-income countries than in high-income countries, reflecting the fact that access to and availability of hospital care is increasing. still limited in LMICs,” they said.
Experts say cases of RSV are likely to rise as masks and lockdowns have reduced natural immunity against this and other common viruses.
Vaccine development has been slow since a failed vaccine in the 1960s led to pneumonia during the first natural RSV infection after vaccination, resulting in two deaths. World Health Organization (WHO).
But new understanding of the virus in recent years has led to the development of several vaccine candidates, some of which may receive regulatory approval in the near future, according to the WHO.
“Interventions targeting RSV are likely to become an important component of strategies to reduce infant mortality worldwide, especially in low- and middle-income countries,” says Krishnan. “It is important that manufacturers, as well as global health agencies, keep this in mind when they make access and price decisions for future products.”
He adds that as new biomedical interventions are under development, it is important that governments are prepared to make appropriate evidence-based decisions for their use.
Sushmita Roy Chowdhury, head of pulmonology at Fortis Hospital in Kolkata, India, says the study highlights the “striking risk of mortality from RSV.”
“In LMICs, the burden is likely to be even greater due to overcrowding and poverty, so mandatory passive immunization plays an important role in preventing severe RSV disease,” she said.
This article was prepared by the SciDev.Net Global Department.