Respiratory syncytial virus disease: prevention and treatment

Curr Top Microbiol Immunol. 2013:372:235-58. doi: 10.1007/978-3-642-38919-1_12.


Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is one of the most clinically important viruses infecting young children, the elderly, and the immunocompromised. Over the past decade, the most significant advance in the prevention of RSV disease has been the development of high-titered antibody products. Infection control is the only other strategy to prevent RSV disease. A humanized monoclonal antibody directed against the fusion (F) protein palivizumab, (Synagis®, MedImmune, Inc., Gaithersburg, MD), is given routinely on a monthly basis to premature infants and young children less than 24 months of age with underlying medical problems including prematurity, chronic lung disease, or cardiac disease to prevent RSV disease and hospitalization. Other products utilizing polyclonal or monoclonal antibodies or antibody fragments against the F protein have been developed and some already tested in patient populations. The only licensed antiviral treatment available today is ribavirin, a guanosine analogue generally administered as a small particle aerosol to immunocompromised patients with lower respiratory tract disease due to RSV. This drug has also been utilized in oral and intravenous forms, again mainly in immunocompromised patients. Promising new antiviral agents under development by multiple pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies include small molecule fusion inhibitors, attachment inhibitors, inhibitors of RNA synthesis, and small interfering RNA particles (siRNA).

MeSH terms

  • Adaptive Immunity / drug effects*
  • Aged
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Humanized / therapeutic use*
  • Antibodies, Viral / therapeutic use*
  • Antiviral Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Child
  • Drugs, Investigational / pharmacology
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Innate
  • Immunocompromised Host
  • Palivizumab
  • RNA, Small Interfering / genetics
  • RNA, Small Interfering / immunology
  • Respiratory Syncytial Virus Infections / drug therapy*
  • Respiratory Syncytial Virus Infections / immunology*
  • Respiratory Syncytial Virus Infections / prevention & control
  • Respiratory Syncytial Virus Infections / virology
  • Respiratory Syncytial Virus, Human / immunology*
  • Respiratory Syncytial Virus, Human / pathogenicity
  • Viral Fusion Proteins / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Viral Fusion Proteins / immunology
  • Virus Internalization / drug effects


  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Humanized
  • Antibodies, Viral
  • Antiviral Agents
  • Drugs, Investigational
  • F protein, human respiratory syncytial virus
  • RNA, Small Interfering
  • Viral Fusion Proteins
  • Palivizumab