Study offers clues to making vaccine for infant respiratory illness

This is the RSV fusion glycoprotein is shown (left) in its pre-fusion state in complex with an antibody (red and white ribbon) and (right) in its post-fusion shape. Credit: NIAID

An atomic-level snapshot of a respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) protein bound to a human antibody represents a leap toward developing a vaccine for a common—and sometimes very serious—childhood disease. The findings, by scientists from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health, define the vulnerable shape of a critical RSV component called the fusion glycoprotein.

The NIAID scientists determined the fusion glycoprotein's shape as it appears before its interaction with . It is this pre-fusion shape that is most vulnerable to neutralizing antibodies. Progress toward an RSV vaccine has been stalled in part because researchers did not previously know about a highly vulnerable site at the tip of the pre-fusion form of the fusion glycoprotein. Now that the structure has been solved and the site of antibody vulnerability revealed, scientists can use the new structural information to design vaccines capable of eliciting potent antibodies aimed at the target on top of the pre-fusion state of the glycoprotein.

Almost everyone is infected with RSV before turning three years of age. Most children recover quickly from such symptoms as sneezing, and cough, but the virus is a leading cause of hospitalization in children under age one. In the United States each year between 75,000 and 125,000 children in this age group are hospitalized with RSV infection. Globally, RSV infection accounts for nearly 7percent of deaths among children between the age of one month and one year. The only drug available to prevent severe RSV illness is a monoclonal antibody, palivizumab, which binds to the RSV fusion glycoprotein. In their study, the NIAID researchers showed how three antibodies that potently neutralize RSV all bind to the newly revealed site on the fusion glycoprotein of RSV. Thus, in addition to new clues for vaccine developers, the NIAID findings also provide a structural basis for how these antibodies neutralize RSV. This insight could accelerate development of these antibodies into therapies to treat or prevent severe RSV disease in very young infants, who are the most vulnerable to serious illness.

More information: JS McLellan et al. Structure of RSV fusion glycoprotein trimer bound to a prefusion-specific neutralizing antibody. Science DOI: 10.1126/science.1234914 (2013).

Related Stories

More children need medical help for RSV than previously known

Feb 04, 2009

More than 2 million children with Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) are seen in hospitals, emergency rooms and doctors' offices in the United States every year -- many more than doctors know. In fact, only 3 percent of children ...

Recommended for you

Restrictions lifted at British bird flu farm

14 hours ago

Britain on Sunday lifted all restrictions at a duck farm in northern England after last month's outbreak of H5N8 bird flu, the same strain seen in recent cases across Europe.

Recorded Ebola deaths top 7,000

Dec 20, 2014

The worst Ebola outbreak on record has now killed more than 7,000 people, with many of the latest deaths reported in Sierra Leone, the World Health Organization said as United Nations Secretary-General Ban ...

Liberia holds Senate vote amid Ebola fears (Update)

Dec 20, 2014

Health workers manned polling stations across Liberia on Saturday as voters cast their ballots in a twice-delayed Senate election that has been criticized for its potential to spread the deadly Ebola disease.

Evidence-based recs issued for systemic care in psoriasis

Dec 19, 2014

(HealthDay)—For appropriately selected patients with psoriasis, combining biologics with other systemic treatments, including phototherapy, oral medications, or other biologic, may result in greater efficacy ...

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.