Controlled Human Infection Challenge Studies with RSV

Curr Top Microbiol Immunol. 2022 Jun 16. doi: 10.1007/82_2022_257. Online ahead of print.


Despite considerable momentum in the development of RSV vaccines and therapeutics, there remain substantial barriers to the development and licensing of effective agents, particularly in high-risk populations. The unique immunobiology of RSV and lack of clear protective immunological correlates has held back RSV vaccine development, which, therefore, depends on large and costly clinical trials to demonstrate efficacy. Studies involving the deliberate infection of human volunteers offer an intermediate step between pre-clinical and large-scale studies of natural infection. Human challenge has been used to demonstrate the potential efficacy of vaccines and antivirals while improving our understanding of the protective immunity against RSV infection. Early RSV human infection challenge studies determined the role of routes of administration and size of inoculum on the disease. However, inherent limitations, the use of highly attenuated/laboratory-adapted RSV strains and the continued evolutionary adaptation of RSV limits extrapolation of results to present-day vaccine testing. With advances in technology, it is now possible to perform more detailed investigations of human mucosal immunity against RSV in experimentally infected adults and, more recently, older adults to optimise the design of vaccines and novel therapies. These studies identified defects in RSV-induced humoral and CD8+ T cell immunity that may partly explain susceptibility to recurrent RSV infection. We discuss the insights from human infection challenge models, ethical and logistical considerations, potential benefits, and role in streamlining and accelerating novel antivirals and vaccines against RSV. Finally, we consider how human challenges might be extended to include relevant at-risk populations.

Keywords: Human challenge; Immunity; Infection; RSV; Respiratory; Virus.