There is no cure for respiratory syncytial virus, a serious childhood infection, but a new study with calves with the disease may help move a potential treatment into human clinical trials.
Although most children will contract RSV at some point before the age of 2 and suffer no lasting effects, the virus often moves from the throat and nose into the lower respiratory tract and is the leading cause of pneumonia and bronchiolitis.
In such cases, which often require hospitalization, RSV is particularly dangerous—not only for premature infants, but for elderly people and adults with compromised immune systems, as well.
There are currently no preventive vaccines or therapeutic drugs to prevent or treat RSV.
Cows and people
The findings of the study, published in the journal Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy, show that an experimental antiviral compound is effective in blocking the virus from binding with the animal’s cell membranes, thus decreasing the level of infection in the treated calves.
The air spaces in the lungs of those treated animals also were less likely to fill with inflammatory cells produced by the infection than were the lungs of untreated animals.
“This study demonstrated that since bovine RSV in calves is almost identical to the human form of the disease in terms of symptoms, lung pathology, and progression of the disease, treatment with an effective antiviral drug can benefit both bovine and human patients,” says Laurel Gershwin, a veterinary microbiologist at University of California, Davis.
“It confirms that the cow is a particularly useful research model for studying RSV and demonstrates the importance of approaching medicine with the ‘one health’ perspective, which spans human and veterinary medicine.”
Gilead Sciences, which developed the experimental antiviral drug that has since moved into clinical trials in adult human patients, funded the work.
Source: UC Davis