Respiratory syncytial virus vaccine development

Semin Immunol. 2013 Apr;25(2):160-71. doi: 10.1016/j.smim.2013.04.011. Epub 2013 Jun 15.


The importance of RSV as a respiratory pathogen in young children made it a priority for vaccine development shortly after it was discovered. Unfortunately, after over 50 years of vaccine development no vaccine has yet been licensed and it is not certain which if any vaccines being developed will be successful. The first candidate vaccine, a formalin inactivated RSV vaccine (FI-RSV), was tested in children in the 1960s and predisposed young recipients to more serious disease with later natural infection. The ongoing challenges in developing RSV vaccines are balanced by advances in our understanding of the virus, the host immune response to vaccines and infection, and pathogenesis of disease. It seems likely that with efficient and appropriately focused effort a safe and effective vaccine is within reach. There are at least 4 different target populations for an RSV vaccine, i.e. the RSV naïve young infant, the RSV naïve infant >4-6 months of age, pregnant women, and elderly adults. Each target population has different issues related to vaccine development. Numerous vaccines from live attenuated RSV to virus like particle vaccines have been developed and evaluated in animals. Very few vaccines have been studied in humans and studies in humans are needed to determine which vaccines are worth moving toward licensure. Some changes in the approach may improve the efficiency of evaluating candidate vaccines. The complexity of the challenges for developing RSV vaccines suggests that collaboration among academic, government, and funding institutions and industry is needed to most efficiently achieve an RSV vaccine.

Keywords: Respiratory syncytial virus; Vaccines.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Animals
  • Drug Discovery
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Population Groups*
  • Pregnancy
  • Respiratory Syncytial Virus Vaccines*


  • Respiratory Syncytial Virus Vaccines