Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) was first described 160 years ago but was not officially recognized as a cause of serious illness in children until the late 1950s. It has been estimated that virtually all children have had at least one RSV infection by their second birthday. RSV is responsible for annual disease outbreaks, usually during a defined winter seasonal period that can vary by community and year. RSV is recognized as the leading cause of hospitalization among young children worldwide. Infants of young chronologic age and children with predisposing factors, such as premature birth, pulmonary disease, or congenital heart disease, are most susceptible to serious illness. Unlike other viruses, immunity to RSV infection is incomplete and short lived, and reinfection is common throughout life. Initial attempts to develop a vaccine in the 1960s met with unexpected and tragic results; many children vaccinated with a formalin-inactivated wild-type virus developed serious pulmonary disease upon subsequent natural infection. Numerous other vaccine technologies have since been studied, including vectored approaches, virus-like particles, DNA vaccines, and live attenuated virus vaccine. As of early 2010, only two companies or institutions had RSV vaccine candidates in early clinical trials, and no vaccine is likely to be licensed for marketing in the immediate future.
respiratory syncytial virus
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