Earlier studies have shown that the drug Palivizumab resulted in a 55 percent reduction in hospitalizations for RSV when given monthly during the RSV season to high-risk babies, including those born prematurely or with congenital heart disease or chronic lung disease.
"An antibody that is commercially available could possibly reduce the long-term complications of serious RSV infections in high-risk babies," Dr. Ramilo said. "These findings not only provide another line of treatment for sick children but also have implications for the potential benefits of a future vaccine against RSV."
To establish the link between RSV and asthma, researchers infected healthy mice with RSV and monitored the animals for 154 days. The infected mice developed pneumonia as well as chronic lung problems. The RSV-infected group developed airway obstruction, mucus overproduction and airway hyper-responsiveness, or asthma, while a control group did not.
To determine whether the antibody in the drug was effective against RSV, UT Southwestern researchers infected healthy mice with RSV and monitored them for up to 70 days. Palivizumab or an isotype-matched control antibody was given once either 24 hours before infection, one hour after infection or 48 hours after infection. All mice treated with the neutralizing antibody showed improvement regardless of when the medicine was given.
UT Southwestern researchers' next step will be to study whether treatments against RSV can reduce RSV-associated asthma in children. Researchers believe these findings could also lead to the development of new anti-RSV medications.