Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV)

Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is the most important cause of viral acute lower respiratory infection (ALRI) in infants and children worldwide and is responsible for over 30 million new ALRI episodes worldwide and up to 199,000 deaths in children under five years old. In the United States, the virus infects nearly all children at least once by the age of two and is the most common cause of bronchiolitis and infant pneumonia, causing up to 125,000 hospitalizations of children each year. RSV disease burden is less understood in the developing world, but available data indicates that the virus causes a significant proportion of childhood ALRI in these parts of the world, particularly in the first months of life. The drug palivizumab can help prevent RSV disease in high risk infants, but it cannot treat or cure already-serious RSV infection. No vaccine exists today to prevent RSV due to an incomplete understanding of the body’s immune response to the virus, which has challenged and delayed RSV vaccine development efforts. Several vaccine technologies to combat RSV are currently in the early stages of development.

More about RSV | View resources on RSV

Key resources

Biological Challenges and Technological Opportunities for Respiratory Syncytial Virus Vaccine Development (2011)
An article that provides an overview of the barriers that have challenged and delayed the development of vaccines against RSV and identifies opportunities that could help overcome these barriers.

Prevention of Serious Respiratory Syncytial Virus-Related Illness. II: Immunoprophylaxis (2011)
An article that reviews the development and use of palivizumab, the only drug approved for the prevention of RSV lower respiratory tract disease.

Featured PATH resource

Paving the Way for Respiratory Syncytial Virus Prevention: Vaccine Development Against a Widespread Cause of Respiratory Illness in Infants and Young Children (2013)
A fact sheet that highlights PATH's work to develop a vaccine against RSV with the potential to help control the disease in the developing world through prevention.

RSV Vaccine Snapshot (2013)
A slide that provides a snapshot of the RSV vaccine technology landscape.

Page last updated: October 2013.