William Schaffner, MD, medical director at the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID), and Patsy Stinchfield, RN, MS, CPNP, president-elect of NFID, explain what strategies they look forward to being implemented in the prevention and treatment of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).
William Schaffner, MD, medical director at the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID), and Patsy Stinchfield, RN, MS, CPNP, president-elect of NFID, explain what strategies they look forward to being implemented in the prevention and treatment of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), including vaccines and monoclonal antibodies.
What are some key strategies to drive progress in RSV prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and surveillance?
Stinchfield: We really think that, like pertussis vaccine or influenza vaccine or COVID vaccine in a pregnant woman, that we could do substantial prevention of disease in that young infant. Those young infants, especially the premature infant, are the ones who are very severely ill and in the intensive care with RSV. If we can get to a point where we can vaccinate pregnant women, protect them, and protect their young infants until they're old enough to have their vaccine series start, that would be a game changer. We then would love to have an RSV vaccine for young children and all ages, actually. I think, in children's hospitals, a vaccinated pediatric population would be a financial game changer for hospitals; that would be a medical breakthrough for children's health.
We really are looking forward to this day where we don't see this, because RSV in and of itself is not just a one-time viral infection. In a young child, that can really set them up for frequent respiratory infections, asthma, increased incidence of ear infections. So when you think about the waves of economic impact and health impact that both prevention and treatments could have in health care related to RSV, it's really quite stunning. We're looking forward to these new interventions. Vaccines [and] monoclonal antibodies for those with severe high risk, both in children and adults, I think will be very, very helpful for all ages.
Schaffner: A great guru of American medicine, Sir William Osler, said that pneumonia was the old man's friend. William Osler was right about many things, but he wasn't right about that. Pneumonia is a terrible way for older individuals, both men and women, to graduate to heaven. It's a very, very difficult disease. There's nothing worse than respiratory distress, particularly when you're older. We are making progress, and have over the years, in combating all kinds of pneumonia. Antibiotics, of course, are clear. Our influenza vaccine and treatments [are] still imperfect, but nonetheless have made a big impact. Now we have COVID on the scene, and we have COVID vaccines, and we have new antivirals already. So we're working on 1 after another of these pathogens that affect older persons' respiratory system and can give them pneumonia.
RSV is next on the list. It produces a terrific amount of disease, hospitalizations; it graduates too many people to heaven every year. We need these new treatments and—I like the prevention of disease completely—new preventives, the vaccines. We look forward to their arrival, their assessment in large populations, and then their implementation, making another contribution now in the 21st century to the prevention of further serious lower respiratory disease in persons of all ages.