by Amanda Conschafter, blog editor
New data confirms what neonatal health care providers and preemie advocates feared – without access to preventative care against respiratory syncytial virus, pre-term infants are suffering severe cases of the deadly disease unnecessarily.
Most children face RSV by age two, but premature infants struggle because of their fragile lungs and immature immune systems. In years past, health care providers have used monthly injections of palivizumab to help protect vulnerable infants from the deadly virus. Yet guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Infectious Diseases limit the treatment to infants born before 29 weeks gestation. Some state Medicaid systems have adopted the AAP’s stance into their coverage policies, effectively denying preventative treatment to the majority of premature infants.
Now, results of the SENTINEL 1 study, presented at the National Medical Association’s 113th Annual Convention and Scientific Assembly in August, underscore the risk of limiting palivizumab to only severely premature babies. Data from 43 U.S. hospitals found 709 hospitalized infants whose gestational age ranged from 29 to 35 weeks. SENTINEL 1 represents one of the largest studies to date of pre-term infants who are hospitalized for severe RSV.
Echoing past clinical studies, SENTINEL 1 reinforces the fact that infants born prematurely are more likely to be hospitalized or die due to severe RSV disease. However, the study also demonstrates that RSV illness for infants above 29 weeks gestation can be severe, requiring ventilator support for breathing and admission to the intensive care unit.
The study will continue through the 2015-2016 RSV season.