- Associated Press - Sunday, November 22, 2015

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) - Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital will begin testing what researchers consider to be a promising new medicine on babies infected with a respiratory virus that’s the leading cause of the hospitalization of infants nationwide.

Dr. John DeVincenzo, medical director, molecular and viral diagnostics at Le Bonheur, told The Commercial Appeal (https://bit.ly/1I8dcGT) that the antiviral drug known as ALS-008176 could redefine how the respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, is handled.

DeVincenzo is the lead author of a study published last week in the New England Journal of Medicine that prompted the federal Food and Drug Administration to approve the test on babies. The approval comes in the wake of a successful trial involving adult volunteers.

“This is fantastic in a few ways …,” said DeVincenzo, who also is a professor of pediatrics and of microbiology, immunology and biochemistry at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center. “This is the most active and potent medicine that anybody has ever assessed … to reduce the RSV virus.”

Although it seldom is fatal in the U.S., the widespread seasonal virus infects the lining of the lungs and is especially threatening to infants who haven’t developed any immunity to it. There are about 64 million cases of infection each year among children and adults worldwide.

With no effective therapy for the virus, doctors have had to mainly treat symptoms until the illness subsided. In severe cases, patients must be put on ventilators.

At Le Bonheur, as many as 500 children a year are hospitalized for RSV, with about 35 or 40 needing treatment in the intensive care unit.

In the study published last week, healthy adults were inoculated with RSV, with one group then given placebos and others administered varying doses of ALS-008176. Researchers found that the “viral load” decreased by 85 to 88 percent in participants receiving the highest doses. The study also revealed no serious side effects.

The findings indicate the drug can be effective even if used in later stages of infection, DeVincenzo said.

Collierville resident Emily Joyner said the development of a possible treatment is good news for families. Her son, Hayden, nearly died from RSV after being infected when he was just four weeks old. Now nearly two, Joyner said Hayden is healthy.

“It’s so exciting,” she said of the new drug. “That’s not even a big enough word.”


Information from: The Commercial Appeal, https://www.commercialappeal.com

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