Researchers examine failed RSV vaccine experiments to find new treatments

Vaccine researchers at Imperial College London are pioneering a new way to treat the childhood Respiratory Syncytial Virus.

RSV infects 65 percent of all infants in their first year of life. It is a primary cause of bronchiolitis and is believed to kill nearly 200,000 children every year. In the 1960s, researchers tested vaccines for RSV that had unintended disastrous effects on immune response. In some cases, administration of the vaccines led to a worsening of the illness, and in others they led to death, according to

Imperial College London Professor Peter Openshaw and his team used mice studies of the previous vaccines to develop a new technique that they hope can be used against viral bronchiolitis and a wide range of other illnesses.

In a paper recently published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Openshaw and his team describe how RSV vaccines boosted white blood cell counts. The white blood cells then swarmed into the lungs, blocking the oxygen supply while eliminating the regulatory immune response known as Tregs.

"The reason for the vaccine's failure has been a puzzle for over 40 years," Openshaw said, reports. "To solve it, we tested out new ideas about how the immune system slows down inflammation. If it doesn't regulate itself properly, inflammation can run out of control. This vaccine seems to have locked the accelerator in the on position and to have disabled the brakes."

The team then tested the effects of chemokines - proteins that cause nearby cells to move around the body. They found that when vaccinated mice inhaled chemokines, Tregs moved back to the lungs where they helped fight infection.

"This is a very important discovery - it represents an entirely new way to treat these inflammatory diseases," Openshaw said, reports. "If this approach were to work in patients, it could be used in a wide range of conditions in which there is excessive inflammation such as arthritis or psoriasis as well as bronchiolitis."