Chances are you’ve been hit by the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), which infects nearly everyone by the age of 2 and usually reinfects exposed people throughout their lifetimes. While most healthy people experience mild to moderate cold-like symptoms, RSV can also cause severe infections. It has earned notoriety as the leading cause of hospital stays for newborns, and RSV-associated infections in infants cause up to 200,000 deaths per year worldwide in developed countries.
With only limited, supportive treatments to help patients with RSV, scientists at Monogram Biosciences, Inc. (part of the LabCorp Specialty Testing Group) recently examined ways to help sponsors develop an RSV vaccine or antiviral medication that can treat or even prevent this illness.
Addressing inadequate tests
“Current assays to support an RSV drug or vaccine are either cumbersome or inadequate,” said Justin De La Cruz, PhD, a scientist in Virology R&D at Monogram Biosciences. “Most viral load tests are simply qualitative,” he explained. “They don’t give you a viral load measurement and only state whether a sample is RSV positive or negative.” (See the poster “Novel Assays to Support Human Respiratory Syncytial Virus Drug and Vaccine Development”.)
Also, RSV can be separated into two main groups, genotypes A and B. Subtyping to A and B can help researchers characterize the virus, if it becomes clinically significant, and track season-by-season infections.
A simultaneous solution
Based on the current lack of suitable assays in the industry, the team at Monogram Biosciences developed a new suite of assays to enable researchers to:
- Rapidly quantify RSV viral load
- Simultaneously assign the A or B subtype
- Derive F (fusion) gene sequences
- Phenotypically assess the susceptibility of clinical RSV isolates to F protein-mediated neutralization
“Beyond the ability to simultaneously quantify viral titer and provide the subtype, the assays can sequence the virus leveraging Monogram’s Next-Generation Sequencing capabilities,” explained Andrew Gale, Senior Director, Business Development at Monogram Biosciences. “With these data, we can build a pseudo virus to help companies screen vaccines against a panel of primary isolates. This approach is also consistent with LabCorp’s mission to improve health and improve lives worldwide.”
Conserving samples—and costs
Along with providing more valuable information than previous assays, this new assay suite is also more time and cost effective. “Typically, a researcher would have to order two different assays,” said De La Cruz, “But now we can get more data with fewer tests, saving time and labor.”
For example, researchers work with minute sample inputs from pediatric nasal swabs. This assay suite is very sensitive and can get more information from a precious sample, using the same sample input as traditional assays.
Advancing RSV research
Sponsors have already started using the Monogram Biosciences assays to support their development work to address RSV. Learn more about how this innovative research can help you to develop new vaccines to tackle RSV infections—see our poster “Novel Assays to Support Human Respiratory Syncytial Virus Drug and Vaccine Development.”
Drysdale SB, Green CA, Sande CJ. Best practice in the prevention and management of paediatric respiratory syncytial virus infection. Therapeutic Advances in Infectious Disease. 2016;3(2):63-71. doi:10.1177/2049936116630243.