Emily Rice Published

WVU Experts Instrumental In Approval Of New RSV Prevention Medication

A baby's hand is holding the finger of an adult.
Impact WV program works with pregnant mothers to reduce withdrawal symptoms after the baby is born.

Medical experts at West Virginia University are excited about the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) approval of Beyfortus as a major advancement to prevent RSV.

Dr. Lisa Costello is an assistant professor in pediatrics at WVU. She said most kids will get RSV in their lifetime.

“For most kids, it’s like a cold, they will have a stuffy nose, cough, there’s a lot of secretions that people get with RSV,” Costello said. “However, for some individuals, RSV can land them in the hospital, and there are certain groups of children who are at higher risk.”

Dr. Mark Polak is a professor of Pediatrics at WVU School of Medicine. He and a team of physicians, nurse practitioners, nurses and pharmacists in the WVU Pediatric Research Unit participated in three pivotal Phase 3 clinical trials.

“In you and I, we’ve seen RSV so many times that our bodies are strong enough to kind of, like, keep it as a common cold,” Costello said. “But in babies who have an immature immune system, the virus can go from the cold down into the trachea, where it causes bronchitis, or even down into the lungs and causing pneumonia.”

Polak said that while there are similar drugs on the market, Beyfortus can last longer in the body than the typical month antibodies usually last.

“We have a new monoclonal antibody, that isn’t degraded in a month,” Polak said. “It actually may last, I think the latest data is at least 150 days.”

Local families allowed their infants to join the projects, which provided critical data on the safety and efficacy of the monoclonal antibody to prevent severe RSV.

“The results were actually spectacular,” Polak said. “It really made a huge, huge difference in not only preventing hospitalizations but preventing and decreasing the need for families to take their kid to see the doctor.”

Polak said RSV was pervasive last winter and hopes Beyfortus can help families avoid long-term symptoms.

“The CDC is predicting another bad winter for RSV, so this is very timely, that it’s been approved,” Polak said. “And, you know, we’re keeping our fingers crossed that we get it out there. Not just in a high risk population, but every baby who’s less than a year old.”

Appalachia Health News is a project of West Virginia Public Broadcasting with support from Charleston Area Medical Center and Marshall Health.