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Respiratory syncytial virus

Respiratoir syncytial virus (RSV)

At Janssen, we work hard to combat the effects of infectious diseases. This is very much needed as each year infectious diseases account for 15% of all deaths worldwide1. Therefore, our colleagues in our “Infectious Diseases and Vaccines” team are highly motivated to work on ways to deliver an end-to-end approach to prevent, treat, and cure infectious diseases. Within this area of expertise, we work on: respiratory infections, bacterial infections (such as tuberculosis), viral infections (such as HIV, hepatitis B and Ebola) and other health concerns around the world (such as COVID-19). Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is one of the respiratory viral infections we are working on: relatively unknown but it impacts millions of people worldwide2

What is RSV?

RSV is a common and very contagious virus which causes infections of the respiratory tract3. Although the disease is most common in young children, adults can be infected with RSV as well. Almost all young children get infected by the virus in the first year of life4. Moreover, every year 160,000 people die as a consequence of RSV worldwide4.In the worst-case scenario, RSV causes life-threatening situations. Also, in the elderly or adults over 60 years of age (especially with pre-existing conditions) RSV can cause serious health problems4.

RSV is often confused with the common cold. Although symptoms of RSV can be similar, including a runny nose, a decrease of appetite, sneezing, coughing and a fever, there is a difference between the two. RSV spreads more rapidly from the nose and throat into the lower respiratory tract, leading to respiratory infections such as bronchiolitis, bronchitis and pneumonia.4.

The burden of RSV is enormous as RSV affects more than 64 million people worldwide every year3. Moreover, every year 160,000 people die as a consequence of RSV worldwide. In Belgium, over 7.000 people are diagnosed with RSV yearly5. Currently, there is no vaccine or effective antiviral treatment available. This stresses the importance of innovative approaches to fight RSV in both children and elderly6.

Our commitment to RSV

At Janssen, we invest in both the prevention and treatment of RSV. Our facility in Leiden, Janssen Vaccines & Prevention B.V., focuses on the development of vaccines against multiple viruses which can cause respiratory diseases, including RSV, influenza and COVID-19. In the development process of a vaccine against RSV, we use our innovative vaccine technology platform®.7 This technology is based on the development and production of adenoviral vectors (for transfer of hereditary material) which can activate the immune system to stimulate immunity against the virus.

More information about Janssen

Read more about our activities in the field of vaccines, Ebola, COVID-19, and about our other areas of expertise. You can also learn more about Janssen's activities in Belgium and what working at Janssen looks like. You can also follow us via social media on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn to stay up to date with current developments.


1World Health Organisation. Projections of mortality and causes of death, 2016 to 2060 – Global summary projections. Available at: Last accessed: August 2020.
2Shi, Ting, 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." The Lancet 390.10098 (2017): 946-958. Last accessed: September 2020
3National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). Available at: Last accessed: August 2020.
4Rijksinstituut voor Volksgezondheid en Milieu. RSV-infectie – richtlijn. Available at: Last accessed: August 2020
5Sciensano. Respiratoir syncytieel virus – Cijfers. Available at: Last accessed: August 2020.
6World Health Organisation. WHO Preferred Product Characteristics for Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) Vaccines. 2017. Available at: Last accessed: August 2020.
7Johnson & Johnson. Janssen Announces U.S. FDA Breakthrough Therapy Designation for Investigational Prophylactic Vaccine for the Prevention of Respiratory Syncytial Virus in Older Adults. Available at: Last accessed August 2020.