Page last updated at 09:10 GMT, Friday, 16 April 2010 10:10 UK
Vaccine hope for children's lung virus
Baby in cot
The virus affects most children before the age of two
A virus that causes wheezing and pneumonia claims the lives of up to 200,000 children worldwide each year, a study has found.
University of Edinburgh scientists found that about 3.4 million children were hospitalised after contracting respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).
RSV is the single largest cause of lung infection in children.
The scientists hope the research will help contribute to the development of a vaccine against the infection.
The study, which has been published in The Lancet, confirmed that RSV - which infects most children before the age of two - usually causes mild cold-like symptoms, but can lead to serious illness in babies who are born prematurely or who have congenital heart disease.
This is the first time we have gathered information on such a global scale and is the best estimate we have for the number of children dying each year from this preventable illness
Dr Harish Nair
University of Edinburgh
It is the first time that the numbers of children dying globally from RSV before the age of five have been quantified.
The international team analysed unpublished data from developing countries as well as all the published medical research on RSV infection.
They found that about 33.8 million children become infected with RSV each year and that 99% of RSV-related deaths occur in developing countries.
The team hopes that by identifying the numbers affected by the virus, it can contribute to the development of a vaccine against the infection.
Dr Harish Nair, of the University of Edinburgh's department of population health studies, said: "Our greatest hope of fighting this virus is to develop a vaccine, but before we can implement an immunisation programme, we need to understand exactly how big a problem RSV poses.
"This is the first time we have gathered information on such a global scale and is the best estimate we have for the number of children dying each year from this preventable illness."
Professor Warren Lenney, spokesman for the British Lung Foundation, the only charity helping people with all lung diseases, said: "Acute Viral Bronchiolitis (RSV) is a respiratory virus which is not well known, however it is the most common reason for tiny babies to be admitted to hospital within the first year of life - across England and Wales RSV causes 20,000 babies to be admitted to hospital each year during the winter months."
He welcomed the research as indicating the size of the problem on a global scale.
"RSV not only causes respiratory problems in early life but can lead to other long-term chest problems well into teenage years," the professor added.
The Lancet, Early Online Publication, 16 April 2010
doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(10)60206-1Cite or Link Using DOI
Global burden of acute lower respiratory infections due to respiratory syncytial virus in young children: a systematic review and meta-analysis
Harish Nair DNB a b, D James Nokes PhD c d, Bradford D Gessner MD e, Mukesh Dherani PhD f, Prof Shabir A Madhi MD g, Rosalyn J Singleton MD h i, Katherine L O'Brien MD j, Anna Roca PhD k l, Prof Peter F Wright MD m, Nigel Bruce PhD f, Aruna Chandran MD j, Evropi Theodoratou PhD a, Agustinus Sutanto MD n, Endang R Sedyaningsih MD o, Mwanajuma Ngama HND c, Patrick K Munywoki MSc c, Prof Cissy Kartasasmita PhD p, Prof Eric AF Simo~es MD q, Prof Igor Rudan MD a r, Martin W Weber PhD s, Prof Harry Campbell MD a Corresponding AuthorEmail Address
The global burden of disease attributable to respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) remains unknown. We aimed to estimate the global incidence of and mortality from episodes of acute lower respiratory infection (ALRI) due to RSV in children younger than 5 years in 2005.
We estimated the incidence of RSV-associated ALRI in children younger than 5 years, stratified by age, using data from a systematic review of studies published between January, 1995, and June, 2009, and ten unpublished population-based studies. We estimated possible boundaries for RSV-associated ALRI mortality by combining case fatality ratios with incidence estimates from hospital-based reports from published and unpublished studies and identifying studies with population-based data for RSV seasonality and monthly ALRI mortality.
In 2005, an estimated 33?8 (95% CI 19?3―46?2) million new episodes of RSV-associated ALRI occurred worldwide in children younger than 5 years (22% of ALRI episodes), with at least 3?4 (2?8―4?3) million episodes representing severe RSV-associated ALRI necessitating hospital admission. We estimated that 66 000―199 000 children younger than 5 years died from RSV-associated ALRI in 2005, with 99% of these deaths occurring in developing countries. Incidence and mortality can vary substantially from year to year in any one setting.
Globally, RSV is the most common cause of childhood ALRI and a major cause of admission to hospital as a result of severe ALRI. Mortality data suggest that RSV is an important cause of death in childhood from ALRI, after pneumococcal pneumonia and Haemophilus influenzae type b. The development of novel prevention and treatment strategies should be accelerated as a priority.
WHO; Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
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