Feb. 13 (UPI) -- A team of researchers from the Flanders Institute of Biotechnology, or VIB, in Belgium have developed a new antiviral strategy to combat the human respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV.
RSV is the leading cause of lower respiratory infections in children and can lead to serious illness in infants and the elderly, resulting in hospitalizations in up to 2 percent of cases. The virus causes roughly 34 million infections in children under 5 years old
Researchers from VIB, UGent and the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth developed single-domain antibodies, or Nanobodies, to target and neutralize a vital protein in the virus making it unable to enter lung cells.
The team created Nanobodies that target the active but unstable form of the RSV fusion protein. The Nanobodies bind to a very conserved portion of the viral fusion protein and provide anti-viral activity against many forms of RSV.
"We successfully developed molecules that act very potently against RSV, not only against multiple clinical isolates in cell culture, but also in animals," Professor Xavier Saelens of VIB-UGent, and co-author of the study, said in a press release. "Our Nanobodies are some of -- if not the -- most potent molecules ever isolated to fight RSV."
There is currently no antiviral treatment for patients hospitalized with RSV.
"As a therapy, Nanobodies are especially attractive because they are stable, soluble and can be administered rapidly and directly to the lung through inhalation," Dr. Iebe Rossey of VIB-UGent and co-author of the study, said in a press release. "Rapid treatment with these Nanobodies could potentially prevent or reduce RSV-related hospitalizations, limiting great patient distress and reducing the costs of care."
The study was published in Nature Communications.