New research indicates that vaccinating families could protect young babies against Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), a common winter virus which can be fatal for infants under six months.
Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) typically leads to mild, cold-like symptoms in adults and older children but can be more serious and even fatal in infants as it can lead to bronchiolitis and pneumonia.
Previously, it was not clear whether babies under six months were more at risk of an RSV infection leading to severe respiratory disease because it was their first infection and they lacked immunity to the virus, or if it was due to the age of the babies.
A new study, published in the American Journal of Epidemiology and funded by the Wellcome Trust, has now found that the disease risk is principally age-related.
This finding is significant because it shows that by increasing the age that a child is exposed to RSV infection fewer cases would develop into severe respiratory disease. The researchers suggest that one way to do this is with vaccination of families with infants. This would significantly reduce the likelihood of the children being exposure to the virus.
Researcher Professor Graham Medley said: “If we can protect children until they are older before they become infected, then they will be at a lower risk of dying following infection from RSV.”