MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Each year, 75,000 to 125,000 infants are hospitalized for respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), a respiratory virus that infects the lungs and breathing passages, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A West Virginia University School of Medicine physician and his research team have discovered that a class of natural regulatory molecules present in human cells, called microRNAs, may help fight RSV, which currently has no vaccine.

“RSV is the first infection that babies get that can land them in the hospital. Every year around winter is when RSV infections are at their peak. By the age of two, RSV affects nearly every child. The discovery that one of these microRNAs can inhibit the ability of the virus to multiply and spread in the windpipe of children is very important for us because there is no vaccine for RSV,” Giovanni Piedimonte, M.D., chair of the WVU Department of Pediatrics and physician-in-chief at WVU Children’s Hospital, said.

“Now that we know that specific microRNAs have the ability to fight this kind of virus, we will try to translate our findings into a new treatment for this very common infection that attacks the youngest and most vulnerable babies.”

Dr. Piedimonte’s research has been published in PLoS ONE, the world’s largest open-access scientific journal published by the Public Library of Science. It can be found on the Public Library of Science website PLoS ONE features original research from all disciplines within science and medicine, and its free, open access makes content available to everyone.

Piedimonte says he hopes his research will reach a wide audience through the journal, and he and his research team will continue to research the role of microRNAs in treating RSV patients.

For more information: Amy Johns, HSC News Service, 304-293-7087
dlc: 01-18-12