Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV)
First Published: Investigator - April 2003
Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) is the most common and dangerous virus in infants, effecting almost 100% of babies worldwide.
RSV lives inside the cells lining the respiratory system, causing swelling coupled with the production of large amounts of mucus.
Almost half of those infants affected by RSV will develop a severe chest infection commonly known as Bronchiolitis.
Bronchiolitis causes inflammation of the airways. It is not known what causes the inflammation. Without an understanding of this inflammation and how it occurs, it is not possible to develop effective treatments.
Professor Kevin Forsyth and his team in the Department of Paediatrics and Child Health at the Flinders Medical Centre have been investigating the mechanism of the disease process of RSV Bronchiolitis through a technique called Microarray Analysis, in an effort to create effective therapies.
Professor Forsyth explains, "When RSV infects the lungs, many cells release an array of substances known as cytokines. The Microarray Analysis allows the researchers to understand the response of thousands of genes expressed by these cells. Microarray analysis enable us to measure the response of thousands of genes which might be producing this lung inflammation.We are identifying which genes appear to be important in bronchiolitis. This will give us valuable clues in our search for understanding of the lung inflammation in bronchiolitis.
"The results obtained will lead us to identify several key substances important in the disease development of Bronchiolitis. If we can understand what happens then we can devise effective treatments. We are looking for a footprint if you like, to show us which genes are being switched on in this condition", said Professor Forsyth.
He added, "To date, our understanding on the range of these substances produced during acute bronchiolitis in children is limited. Lack of progess may have been caused by the difficulties in obtaining clinical material from babies and the lack of expertise and techniques. We now have access to fresh clinical material."
It is believed prevention of RSV bronchiolitis in babies will reduce the prevalence of childhood asthma in industrialised countries by 80%. With virtually 100% of newborn babies infected with RSV, this is welcome news.