Study: New Tools Aid Development of Drugs for Respiratory Syncytial Virus


Tools provide a safer testing option without using the viral proteins that cause infection.

Researchers from Georgia State University and the Institute for Biomedical Sciences are making efforts to develop improved treatments and tools for vaccines for respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).1

Blood collection tubes Respiratory syncytial virus( RSV) test positive results - Image credit: UN LI |

Image credit: UN LI |

RSV is a common respiratory infection that impacts the lower lungs and can cause mild symptoms that are comparable to those of a cold. Individuals infected with RSV typically recover in 1 to 2 weeks; however most adults face complications that result in hospitalization. Additionally, the infection spreads through droplets from a cough or sneeze from an infected individual or through touching a contaminated surface then touching the mouth, nose, or eyes.2

Peak RSV infection occurs in the winter, but infections begin in the fall, causing around 60,000 to 160,000 hospitalizations annually, and up to 10,000 deaths among adults aged ≥65 years, in the United States. Following, individuals who are 65 years and older that also have other comorbidities are at high risk due to age-related declines in immune function.2

“Overall, understanding and addressing the long-term effects of RSV in older adults is crucial for public health and patient care. While the virus initially presents as a mild respiratory infection, it can lead to severe complications, particularly among the elderly population, resulting in hospitalization and even death,” said Anjeza Fero, PharmD, RPh, in an article published by Pharmacy Times.2

The currently available vaccines from GSK (Arexvy) and Pfizer (Abrysvo) have displayed promising efficacy among adults aged 60 and older. However, there are no specific treatment options for cases of mild RSV infection, other than hydration and rest.2

Richard Plemper, director of the Georgia State Center for Translational Antiviral Research, shares his research to enhance RSV treatment options. Plemper’s role in the biotech companies focuses on uncovering the pathogenesis of respiratory RNA viruses and antiviral drug development, according to study authors.1

The study authors noted that the researchers developed a tool that can be introduced into cells during drug screening examines. The tool works by radiating fluorescent or bioluminescent light at different intensities when the RSV genes are repressed by antiviral agents being tested, according to study authors. This test provides a safer option as it is not using the viral proteins that initiate infection.1

However, the study authors noted that this is not the first tool produced by Plemper and his team. The study authors noted that, in April 2024, Georgia State’s Office of Technology Transfer signed a new non-exclusive internal vaccine research and development license agreement for the use of RSV Minigenome construct that was designed by Plemper and his team. Additional tools created at Georgia State from Plemper include VSV-eGFP with eGFP Reporter, VSV-nanoLuc with nano-Luciferase Reporter and Recombinant Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) Firefly Luciferase Reporter Virus.1

“We are constantly working toward developing new ways to treat, prevent and detect RSV, and we know this technology has the potential to make testing safer,” said Plemper, in a news release. “We also feel confident that these tools have novel uses for those who study antivirals in the biotechnology industry.”1

1. Biotech companies leverage Georgia State University tools to develop drugs for RSV. EurekAlert! News release. May 22, 2024. Accessed May 30, 2024.
2. Respiratory Syncytial Virus in Older Patients: Prevention, Management, and Long-Term Impact. Pharmacy Times. News release. May 11, 2024. Accessed May 30, 2024.
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