New research shows vaccinating mothers for RSV leads to less infant antibiotic prescriptions

New research from Assistant Professor Joseph Lewnard indicates that infants whose mothers received an investigational vaccine against respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) during pregnancy experienced 13% lower rates of antibiotic prescribing over the first three months of life. RSV is a leading cause of severe acute lower respiratory tract infections among infants globally and is a leading contributor to antibiotic use.

The trial, which included more than 4,500 mothers and 4,500 infants in 87 sites across 11 countries between 2015 and 2018, implicated RSV as an important contributing factor to antimicrobial exposure in infants and that this exposure can be mitigated by vaccinating pregnant mothers.

“We need to reduce antibiotic use to mitigate the growing and significant threat of antimicrobial resistance,” said Lewnard. “Stewardship interventions that have been the mainstay of approaches to achieve this goal have achieved almost nothing over the past two decades. Our study implicates RSV as one of the most significant individual pathogens contributing to antibiotic use, and demonstrates this use is preventable through vaccination. Benefits are twofold—reduction in prescribing (which is largely inappropriate/unnecessary for a viral infection like RSV) and reduction in the disease burden that precipitates such prescribing.”

Lewnard hopes his research furthers the argument for including assessments of widespread use of antibiotics in evaluations of the public health and economic impact of vaccines, including for RSV. 

Read the full study, published in PNAS, here.

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