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Dr John Tregoning

Institute: Imperial College London

New RSV human challenge strains

Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) is a common virus that usually causes mild, cold-like symptoms. However, RSV infection can be serious – even life-threatening – in infants and older or immune-suppressed adults. The virus is a major cause of infant hospitalisation in the UK and worldwide, but is responsible for more deaths in low and middle income countries (LMICs) than high income countries.     

Respiratory Syncytial Virus
Respiratory syncytial virus

An effective vaccine would save thousands of lives, and reduce the burden on healthcare systems. But attempts to develop a vaccine haven’t been successful.

There are two main different subtypes of RSV, and they have changed at the genetic level over recent years. Studies of natural disease have generated useful information, but human infection studies are an important tool to understand immunity to RSV.

Since most deaths from RSV occur in LMICs, it is important that viruses used in human infection studies reflect circulating strains in these countries as closely as possible. We are working with partners in the KEMRI-Wellcome Trust unit in Kenya to identify stored samples of the virus that are the nearest match for strains causing severe outbreaks of disease in Kenya. Once we have grown and characterised these viruses, they can be used for future human infection studies.

Our research could improve the information that scientists get from human infection studies of RSV, and could lead to breakthroughs in vaccine development.

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