While everyone remains intensely focused on the omicron variant of COVID-19 this winter, another potentially deadly infectious threat lurks under the radar.
Respiratory Syncytial Virus is more commonly known for infecting infants and babies ages 0-2, but older adults can also become gravely ill from the coldlike virus. Like many other respiratory infections such as common colds, coronavirus or influenza, RSV often peaks during the colder winter months.
Since many of these illnesses also present with similar symptoms, it may be difficult to determine which infectious pathogen you have without seeing your doctor and getting tested to know for certain.
The Centers for Disease Control cautions that RSV infections can be especially dangerous for adults 60-65+ or adults with certain underlying health conditions. The CDC estimates that more than 177,000 older adults are hospitalized and 14,000 of them die annually in the United States due to RSV infection. Adults at highest risk for severe RSV infection include:
- Older adults, especially 65 years and older
- Adults with chronic heart or lung disease
- Adults with weakened immune systems
RSV spreads much like other respiratory illnesses — through direct contact, such as kissing a baby who has RSV. It can spread by inhaling airborne droplets projected from a cough or sneeze.
It can also be spread from touching a contaminated surface and then touching your eyes, nose or mouth before washing your hands.
According to Lilian Vargas, Clinical Research Coordinator for Mount Vernon Clinical Research in Atlanta, some RSV symptoms may be comparable to COVID-19. But RSV and its symptoms are more comparable to flu. According to the CDC, typical RSV symptoms include:
- Runny nose
- Decreased appetite
For many who contract RSV, the infection may be no worse than a bad cold. However, in older adults or other at-risk adults, RSV can develop into a serious condition with more severe symptoms. This can lead to pneumonia, congestive heart failure, hospitalization or even death, according to the CDC.
While there is no treatment or cure for RSV currently, there is hope for those who wish to be proactive in the fight against RSV.
Mount Vernon Clinical Research is one of several sites nationwide which is now conducting a late-stage testing research trial to study the efficacy of an RSV vaccine candidate from U.S. drugmaker Moderna. Moderna’s RSV vaccine candidate utilizes similar messenger RNA technology, or mRNA, as that of its COVID-19 vaccine. Since there are no live or weakened virus particles used in the RSV vaccine, there is no possibility of contracting RSV from the investigational vaccine for RSV.
The trial will last two years to follow participants over time and monitor their health after the injection. It will also collect data on the study’s outcomes.
Participate in a clinical research trial to help fight RSV
Metro Atlantans age 60+ are eligible to enroll in the RSV vaccine study at Mount Vernon Clinical Research, which is part of Wake Research, a national network of clinical investigative sites.
Enrollment will likely run through February.
“If it weren’t for the participation of our invaluable patient volunteers, many medical advancements would simply not be possible,” said Dr. Ella Grach, CEO of Wake Research.
“Research study participants make an enormous impact on the future of medical science. By enrolling in a vaccine trial, for example, patients contribute to important research and scientific data that may ultimately reduce or prevent future illness or deaths caused by infectious diseases.”
Potential volunteers may determine if they qualify for the RSV vaccine study by visiting Mount Vernon Clinical Research online, or calling the clinic directly at 404-843-4400.
A recruiter contacts each volunteer to ask a few questions to see if the volunteer qualifies for the study. If so, the patient volunteer will be scheduled for an office visit.
Once qualified to participate, patients receive all study-related medication — an RSV vaccine — at no cost. They’ll also receive medical exams and reimbursement for time and travel.
Each study participant receives one injection in the upper arm. Half of participants will receive the actual RSV vaccine, and the other half will receive a placebo. which doesn’t contain any active ingredients. Participants in the study receive the exact same quality of medical care regardless of whether they receive the vaccine or the placebo.