Researchers hope the successful trial of a one-shot vaccine will reduce hospitalisation rates for premature babies at risk of complications from a common respiratory virus.
More than 43,000 cases of respiratory syncytial virus have been recorded nationwide across all ages in the past six months and doctors say it is one of the most common reasons for hospital admission in infants aged less than one.
For preterm babies with underlying lung conditions, contracting the virus means a greater risk of serious complications.
“Preterm babies who go home on oxygen are much more likely to require admission to a paediatric intensive care unit for breathing support and are more likely to die of RSV infection than healthy term babies without underlying lung problems,” Mater Mothers’ Hospital director of neonatology Pita Birch said.
“If the trial is successful, the new vaccine will better protect babies against developing RSV infection compared with the current vaccine and reduce hospitalisations, intensive care admissions and deaths.”‘
Gold Coast twins Adeline and Audrey, who were born 15 weeks early, are participating in the clinical trials at the Brisbane hospital.
Mum Jennifer Hockings said her girls had chronic neonatal lung disease and came home on oxygen.
“Premmie babies have to go through so many procedures, getting constantly poked, pricked and prodded as a necessary part of their care,” she said.
“If this trial is successful and there are a few less needles they have to endure, then that is fantastic.”
Brisbane mum-of-two Caitlin Archard-Farry described her son being hospitalised with the virus as a wake up call.
One-year-old Luca required oxygen for two days in hospital.
“I didn’t realise how serious the virus can be,” Mrs Archard-Farry said.
“Luca had been sick for a few days with lethargy, breathing and wheezing. One day I wasn’t able to wake him without a lot of effort. That’s when I knew something wasn’t right.
“To know research is being done to ensure these tiny babies won’t require so many vaccinations is amazing.”
The trial vaccine is being compared to existing respiratory syncytial virus vaccinations given to at-risk babies.
Under the current regime, up to five vaccine doses are administered via injections at the start of the winter respiratory syncytial virus season.
(Australian Associated Press)