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Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV)

What is it?

Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) is a common cause of respiratory infections, meaning it impacts the lungs and airway. 

The majority of children get RSV before they turn 2 years old, and RSV is most common during the fall and winter (the same time as colds and flu).

 

For most people, RSV causes mild cold symptoms. However, it can be dangerous for young children and older adults. In fact, RSV is the most common cause of hospitalizations for children under 1 year old. 

Here is a brief video explanation of RSV and its symptoms: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n6lP6XzySNA

RSV Vaccine Options:

Both of these vaccines are approved for people ages 60+.

Abrysvo is also approved for pregnant individuals (specifically 32-36 weeks pregnant). 

RSV Monoclonal Antibodies:

There is not an RSV vaccine for children, but they can be immunized with monoclonal antibodies

 

Beyfortus (nirsevimab) is recommended for infants 8 months or younger to protect them during their first RSV season and provides 5 months of protection.

Like the flu vaccine, Beyfortus is recommended at a certain time of year instead of at a specific age.

This vaccine is also recommended for some children 8-19 months old who are high risk for severe RSV infection. 

What are Monoclonal Antibodies?

Normally, the body makes antibodies in response to antigens (such as allergens, bacteria, or viruses), so if you encounter the antigen in the future the body can defend itself — this is also how vaccines work.

 

Monoclonal antibodies are antibodies that are produced in a lab. Like the antibodies your body makes, they can recognize and protect against a specific antigen. A monoclonal antibody injection provides antibodies without exposing the body to an antigen.

 

In addition, making antibodies can take time (which is why vaccines do not provide immediate protection), but monoclonal antibodies start working much more quickly. However, protection does not last as long as vaccination — this immunization provides 5 months of protection

Monoclonal antibodies are not new: the first one was licensed in 1986 to treat kidney transplant rejection. Now, they are used to treat a variety of conditions including cancer and allergies.

Click here for a video explanation of monoclonal antibodies

(Note: the video is about using monoclonal antibodies for COVID-19, but it works the same way for RSV
 

Definitions

  • Adjuvant: a compound added to some vaccines to strengthen the immune response

  • Antibody: a protein made by the immune system in response to a foreign particle (antigen). These proteins circulate in the blood and help defend the body against the substance.

  • Antigen: This is any substance that triggers the immune system to create antibodies. For example, allergens such as pollen are antigens.

  • Monoclonal antibodies: Antibodies made in a lab that are used to target and protect against an antigen

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Last updated: Jan. 28, 2024

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