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Upstate to test vaccine to fight respiratory virus in newborns

Upstate University Hospital
Dr. Joseph Domachowske will direct the Global Maternal Child and Pediatric Health Program. The pediatrician has extensive work on medical missions overseas. This photo shows him on a medical mission to El Salvador in 2013.

Researchers from Upstate University Hospital are testing a vaccine that could prevent a common respiratory virus among newborns.

Respiratory syncytial virus, better known as RSV, is the most common reason newborns end up in the hospital. It’s a very contagious respiratory virus that’s everywhere, and for most children, it plays out as a common cold. But for infants less than two months old it can be life threatening.

As part of a special program at Upstate to address global health issues in pregnant women and children, Dr. Joseph Domachowske will lead clinical trials of a vaccine to prevent RSV. But they won’t be giving shots to babies.

"The new strategy is to immunize the moms during the late part of their pregnancy, see if we can boost their immunity, so they can provide some of that protection for their babies when they are most vulnerable, those first couple of months,” said Domachowske.

These trials will take place in Syracuse and Ecuador. While RSV leads to hospitalization of 120 infants a year at the Golisano Children’s Hospital in Syracuse, Domachowske says it’s a much more deadly disease in other parts of the world. So a vaccine would go a long way towards reducing global child mortality, a goal of Upstate’s Global Maternal Child and Pediatric Health Program.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.