New vaccine helps moms protect their child from RSV

MISSOULA - One hospital in Missoula is testing a new vaccine that may protect babies from a potentially deadly illness before they're even born.

Community Medical in Missoula is one of 60 hospitals selected across the United States and Latin America to test a vaccine that's given to pregnant women in hopes that they'll pass on the antibodies to their babies. The goal is to prevent respiratory syncytial virus.

RSV is very common and contagious among young children. For most, RSV will present with mild symptoms of the common cold. In some babies, it can be deadly.

"It’s hard because you want to wrap your arms around them and help them and breath for them, but you can’t," says Brad Holbrok. He's a maternal fetal medicine doctor and father to a child who had RSV. 

"You just have to sit there with them, hold them, and hope for the best," he says.

Holbrok’s youngest daughter had RSV when she was baby. She survived, but he says her respiratory system is weakened and common colds can affect her for weeks at a time.

M. Bardett Fausett, a maternal fetal medicine doctor, says a National Institutes of Health trial made a breakthrough in fighting RSV.

“They found a piece of this virus they could create an antibody for to create an immune response," Fausett said.

Since RSV can affect babies when they're too young for vaccinations, the goal is to inoculate pregnant women in hopes that they'll pass on the antibodies through the placenta or with breast milk.

Now Community Medical is looking for expecting mothers to volunteer to take the vaccine.

"In the trial it is 24 to 34 weeks basically, so we are trying to get moms in the later part of pregnancy so we want to make sure moms have time to build up those antibodies. So that’s why it cuts off about 6 weeks before the due date," Fausett said.

They hope to find 60 expecting mothers between 18- to 40-years-old in the next few weeks to start the trial.

All mothers who take the vaccine will also be compensated for participating in the trial.

If you or a loved one are eligible for the trial you can visit the research web site or call the Maternal Fetal Medical clinic at (406) 327-3924 or call Boeson Research at (406) 763-8833.

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