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Wilmington clinical trial on possible RSV vaccine kicks off as hospital sees abnormal increase in cases

RSV cases are on the rise
RSV cases are on the rise(WECT)
Published: Aug. 24, 2021 at 5:05 PM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - Unfortunately COVID-19 isn’t the only respiratory virus going around. Hospitals across the nation are tracking an uptick in respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) cases, and the Cape Fear region is no different.

NHRMC pediatric hospitalist Laura Parente says the pediatric unit had 38 kids in June and more than 50 in July with RSV. The numbers are unusual because the virus is seasonal, and typically seen in the colder months.

“We normally see no patients with this. So, it’s definitely filled up our hospital in the last couple months, just like it’s done to other hospitals around the South,” said Parente.

RSV is a pretty common respiratory condition that comes with cold-like symptoms. Most people only have mild symptoms, but children under two, and the elderly don’t always fight it off so easily. The virus can attack the lungs and cause breathing problems.

“The kids we’re seeing in the hospital are the ones who have real trouble breathing from it. So, fast breathing, hard breathing, tiring out from how much they’re working to breathe, or kids who need oxygen or even intensive care services for their breathing,” explained Parente. “Other kids have so many symptoms, they’re having trouble eating and are getting dehydrated from it and they’re coming into the hospital for that.”

While no one has a definite answer behind what’s causing the RSV spike, doctors believe it could be connected to more people being out and about and fewer individuals wearing masks.

More than 144,000 hospitalizations and 14,000 deaths each year are due to RSV complications, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The spike in RSV cases comes at the same time Wilmington company Trial Management Associates, LLC is gearing up for a new clinical trial.

“One of the ways that we can work toward preventing infectious diseases is through a vaccine,” said TMA pharmacist Dr. Evan Lucas.

The vaccine the company is studying uses an adenovirus, which has been altered so that it can’t make you sick. The idea is to introduce some of the fusion proteins within the virus to interact with your immune system so your body creates antibodies that would fight off the real virus if you contracted RSV.

There’s no vaccine for RSV yet, but researchers are hoping to bring new therapies on the market, and they’re already enrolling participants for the trial.

“You get to be a part of the cutting edge of medicine. It’s such a neat way to give back through that, so we’re looking for around 250 folks to volunteer their time,” said Lucas.

These will be lifesaving advancements for future patients, and the results may be even more significant given the extra strain right now on Parente and her coworkers at the hospital.

“From an RSV standpoint alone, and especially in the setting of COVID infections going up, anything you can do to stay out of the hospital is going to be helpful,” said Parente.

TMA is seeking volunteers ages 60 and older for the RSV trials as well as volunteers ages 18 and older for additional clinical trial opportunities. All patients will be compensated for their time and travel.

Anyone interested in volunteering is asked to call 910-338-1555.

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