New pregnancy vaccine to combat virus in infants

pregnant lady with tiny shoes

Pregnant women in Southampton are taking part in a vaccine study aiming to prevent a potentially life threatening respiratory infection

Preventing severe infections

The respiratory syncytial virus (RSV)  causes infections in the lungs and breathing passages. It affects almost all infants by the age of two.In adults and older children it often causes only mild symptoms, however in young babies it can lead to more severe lung infections, such as bronchiolitis and pneumonia - resulting in around 30 deaths a year among babies in the UK.

During the winter months the virus causes epidemics responsible for up to one in six hospital admissions in children less than a year old every year and, long-term, can lead to the development of persistent wheeze.

Benefits of immunising whilst pregnant

The investigational RSV vaccine aims to trigger the mother's immune defences to create proteins called antibodies, which label virus particles for immune cells to find and destroy them. These antibodies pass to the baby within the womb, and it is hoped that will protect infants for a minimum of three months after birth. 

Vaccination during pregnancy is already recommended by the NHS for diseases such as whooping cough and influenza are effective at preventing infection in the mother and infant. Researchers are optimistic that the RSV vaccine will be similarly as effective.

Dr Chrissie Jones, Associate Professor in Paediatric Infectious diseases and study lead for Southampton, added "This is the first time in 50 years that an RSV vaccine has been developed for use in pregnancy to prevent RSV diseases right from birth. RSV is the leading cause of hospitalisation in young children and millions of children are affected by RSV globally every year, a successful vaccine could save hundreds of thousands of lives across the world."

The trial, funded by Novavax Inc.and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, is looking to involve up to 8,600 women worldwide and, in the UK, the trial is being run in London, Oxford and Bristol.

If you would like to find out more information, please contact the NIHR Southampton Clinical Research Facility on 023 8120 6856 or email 

Posted on Monday 16 October 2017