Researchers at Mater Mothers’ Hospital in Australia are trialling a new vaccine for respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), which commonly affects premature babies with chronic neonatal lung disease.

The study intends to deliver single-dose protection and reduce rehospitalisation rates among premature babies after discharge.

Mater Mothers’ Hospital Neonatology director Dr Pita Birch said: “Many preterm babies had underlying lung conditions and were at greater risk of serious complications if they contracted RSV.

“Those that develop RSV can be affected by bronchiolitis, which causes difficulty in breathing.

“This can become so severe that babies require respiratory support, including intubation and mechanical ventilation.”

“Preterm babies who go home on oxygen are much more likely to require admission to a paediatric intensive care unit for breathing support and are more likely to die of RSV infection than healthy term babies without underlying lung problems.”

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If the trial is successful, the vaccine is expected to offer better protection to babies against developing RSV infection compared with the current vaccine, as well as reduce hospitalisations, intensive care admissions and deaths.

Twins born 15 weeks early at Mater Mothers’ Hospital in February this year are participating in the trial.

Mater Mothers’ Hospital research lead clinical research coordinator Stephanie Guilas and primary study coordinator Annie Kenny said: “Pre-term babies currently require up to five doses of the existing RSV vaccines via injections at the start of the RSV season, which is most common during winter.

 “With this study, we’re hoping these babies will only need one vaccination in the future.”

Last month, Enanta Pharmaceuticals reported positive topline data from a Phase I study of EDP-323 for the treatment of RSV.

The randomised, placebo-controlled study assessed the pharmacokinetics, tolerability and safety of oral EDP-323 in healthy volunteers for seven days.