Our ambition to improve RSV care for infants worldwide


Tonya Villafana, Global Medicines Leader, Infectious Diseases


Despite its high prevalence and potential severity in infant populations around the world, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is still not well known by many parents and families.1,2 But this common, contagious seasonal pathogen is a serious public health threat that will infect nearly all babies by their second birthdays.3,4 Further, RSV is the leading cause of acute lower respiratory tract infection, such as bronchiolitis and pneumonia, in infants and young children.5

While most babies with RSV will only experience mild, cold-like symptoms and can be treated successfully in an outpatient setting, serious cases of RSV can have a significant impact and even be life-threatening.2

The number of annual RSV cases is not insignificant: globally, RSV affects an estimated 64 million people and causes 160,000 deaths each year.1 Additionally, RSV is the most common cause of hospitalization for LRTI in children younger than five years of age, and sadly, one in every 160 children younger than five years to develop LRTI caused by RSV will die.6,7



Not only can serious cases of RSV cause deaths among our most vulnerable patients, hospitalisations due to RSV are, in many cases, adding to healthcare costs that in many countries are already rising exponentially each year.8

Oftentimes, people believe that only babies born prematurely or with other complications are at risk for RSV. However, it’s important to note that most infants who are hospitalised each year due to RSV are otherwise healthy, debunking the myth that only premature babies and those with complications or weakened immune systems experience illness from RSV.9,10

And while the significant global public health burden is clear, there is currently no preventative option available to protect all babies from RSV.  

As the Global Medicines Leader for Infectious Diseases at AstraZeneca, I believe we have a responsibility – and an incredible opportunity – to follow the science so we can help improve RSV care and management for infants and children across the globe.

I’m incredibly proud to lead a team that’s following the science and working tirelessly to explore potential new pathways to improve and expand RSV care and management. I’m also excited to be collaborating closely with our partners at Sanofi Pasteur to work together toward improved RSV care.

Every day, my team is driven by the existing unmet need in RSV and the knowledge that so many babies worldwide will face RSV each year.

AstraZeneca is also committed to advancing RSV awareness among families across the globe, so they’re empowered to have informed, productive conversations with their healthcare teams on how they can protect their babies. We will continue to share educational messages and resources via our social media platforms to help provide meaningful insights into how families can work to prevent RSV and appropriately care for their babies if they contract it.

I am incredibly excited about the opportunities in the RSV space – both to follow the science and promote awareness and education, with the hope that we can make a difference for babies facing RSV each year and address this significant public health threat head-on.

You can learn more about RSV here: https://www.cdc.gov/rsv/index.html



  1. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV). https://www.niaid.nih.gov/diseases-conditions/respiratory-syncytial-virus-rsv. Accessed November 2019.
  2. Piedimonte G, Perez M. Respiratory Syncytial Virus Infection and Bronchiolitis. Pediatrics in Review (2014) 35:519-530.
  3. Adamko DJ, Friesen M. Why does respiratory syncytial virus appear to cause asthma? Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. 2012;130(1):101-102. doi:10.1016/j.ja ci.2012.05.024.
  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About RSV. https://www.cdc.gov/rsv/about/index.html. Accessed November 2019.
  5. Shi T, et al. Global, regional, and national disease burden estimates of acute lower respiratory infections due to respiratory syncytial virus in young children in 2015: a systematic review and modelling study. Lancet 2017; 390: 946–58.
  6. Nair H, et al. Global burden of acute lower respiratory infections due to respiratory syncytial virus in young children: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Lancet. 2010 May 1; 375(9725):1545-55.
  7. Stein RT, et al. Respiratory syncytial virus hospitalization and mortality: Systematic review and meta-analysis. Pediatric Pulmonology (2017) 52:556-569. doi: 10.1002/ppul.23570.
  8. Leistner R, et al. “Attributable Costs of Ventilator-Associated Lower Respiratory Tract Infection (LRTI) Acquired on Intensive Care Units: a Retrospectively Matched Cohort Study.” Antimicrobial Resistance and Infection Control, vol. 2, no. 1, 4 Apr. 2013, p. 13., doi:10.1186/2047-2994-2-13.
  9. Hall CB, et al. Respiratory Syncytial Virus-Associated Hospitalizations Among Children Less Than 24 Months of Age. Pediatrics, 132(2). doi: 10.1542/peds.2013-0303
  10. Hibino A, et al. Molecular epidemiology of human respiratory syncytial virus among children in Japan during three seasons and hospitalization risk of genotype ON1. Plos One, 13(1). doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0192085


Veeva ID: Z4-20594

Date of Preparation: November 2019

Date of Expiry: November 2021