RSV research could reduce the longevity of virus

Tuesday 15 June 2021

By two years of age, more than 80% of children have been diagnosed with Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) at least once, and half of these children have been infected twice. RSV is a common cause of lung infections such as bronchiolitis and pneumonia. Premature children are at the highest risk of serious illness because their immune system is less developed.

During the COVID-19 epidemic, the Greater Brisbane region saw a significant increase in RSV cases, even with a reduction in Influenza A cases.

Pathology Queensland data shows that between January and March 2021, a total of 2,251 people tested positive to RSV in the Greater Brisbane region.

This compares to 591 people testing positive to RSV in the Greater Brisbane region between January and March 2020.

In January and February of 2021 there were 1,151 patients admitted to hospital with a principal diagnosis of RSV, compared with 238 patients during the same time period in 2020. Despite decades of intensive research, RSV has evaded the efforts of vaccinologists and there are currently no marketed compounds which are specifically indicated for the treatment of RSV.

Mater Research’s Associate Professor Sumaira Hasnain has dedicated the last 15 years to researching treatment options for the most common chronic diseases. She has led the work that discovered that a protein secreted by the immune cells, called Interleukin-22 (IL-22), is elevated very early in preclinical models of RSV and if inhibited results in the early resolution of RSV. The scientific merit to understand the levels of IL-22 is extraordinary, yet no studies have precisely studied the changes in the levels of IL-22 during RSV.

Associate Professor Hasnain received a grant from the Australian Infectious Diseases Research Centre, UQ to further explore the relationship between IL-22 and RSV in children with RSV. Together with Hasnain’s collaborator at the Queensland Children’s Hospital, Professor Claire Wainwright, they are now conducting a pilot study to assess the levels of IL-22 in children with RSV and correlate this with the severity of infection to progress their therapeutic further in the pre-clinical pipeline.