Moderna: effective vaccine against syncytial virus

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The scientific revolution triggered by anti-covid vaccines will soon lead to new allies for respiratory health. The pharmaceutical company Moderna has in fact announced that one of its experimental mRNA vaccines in an advanced stage of testing has an 83.7% efficacy in preventing respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) infection with at least two symptoms (for example cough and fever) in the over 60s.

VRS – what is it. Il respiratory syncytial virus it is responsible like the flu for annual epidemics. It is a highly contagious respiratory pathogen that typically gives cold symptoms, but if it spreads to the lower airways it can cause coughing or wheezing, bronchiolitis (inflammation and obstruction of the bronchioles, the last branches of the bronchi) and pneumonia. Especially dangerous for infants and the elderly, it is the leading cause of hospitalization under one year of age. Due to some competition dynamics between viruses and not only triggered by covid, the syncytial virus is enjoying a wide diffusion especially in Europe and the United States.

Highly effective. Researchers have been working on a vaccine against this pathogen for decades. Moderna has decided to exploit the mRNA technology used in anti-covid vaccines to also prevent this respiratory infection, starting with elderly patients (pediatric vaccines generally arrive only after having ascertained efficacy and safety in the adult population).

The trial took place on 37,000 volunteers over the age of 60 from 22 countries and the vaccine was effective in almost 84% of cases in avoiding infection with two symptoms and in 82.4% of cases in preventing infection with three or more symptoms. The vaccine did not give any noteworthy adverse effects. The company, which announced the findings at a scientific meeting, will seek vaccine approval in the first half of 2023, as severe disease vaccine trials and hospitalization continue.

Now in the crosshairs. Moderna’s mRNA vaccine candidate joins protein-based vaccine candidates developed against syncytial virus by Pfizer and GSK, recently awaiting regulatory approval in the United States. Last October, Pfizer announced that its vaccine was 82% effective against severe disease in the first three months of babies’ lives, after vaccinating pregnant mothers, and 66.7% effective against two or more symptoms in phase 3 trials. The fight against the syncytial virus seems destined to become increasingly intense.

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