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EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the second in a series of articles by The Defender on respiratory syncytial virus, commonly known as RSV. Read part one — “Big Pharma Eyes Next Childhood Vaccine Cash Cow — mRNA Vaccines for RSV.”
Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), first discovered in 1956, has since been recognized as one of the most common causes of childhood cold-like illness. The virus causes annual outbreaks of respiratory illnesses in all age groups, typically during the fall, winter and spring in most regions of the United States among.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, on an annual basis, RSV on average leads to approximately 2.1 million outpatient visits and 58,000 hospitalizations among children younger than 5 years old, 177,000 hospitalizations among adults 65 and older and 14,000 deaths among adults 65 years and older.
But an important and hugely overlooked fact about RSV, is that the virus is relatively new. It was first identified in 1955, in monkeys. At the time, the virus was not called RSV, but Chimpanzee Coryza Agent due to its discovery in chimpanzees being used for vaccine research and development.
First identified in chimpanzees used for polio vaccine research
In order to develop viral vaccines, such as the polio vaccine, that could be mass-produced, researchers needed to first grow the viruses in large quantities.
Compared with bacteria, which can be grown in a laboratory environment when placed in a suitable growth medium, viruses require living cells to be able to grow and reproduce. One of the most popular living cells used to grow the viruses were kidneys taken from non-human primates such as apes and monkeys.
During the height of polio vaccine development, the demand for monkeys was so great that monkeys were being shipped in from around the world for research and to provide much needed living tissue to grow the virus. As was reported in the book, “The Virus and the Vaccine” (p. 33), “200 thousand monkeys alone were required in 1955, the first year of full-scale commercial polio vaccine production.”
In October of 1955, a respiratory illness characterized by coughing, sneezing and nasal discharge (coryza), occurred in a colony of chimpanzees being housed at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, Forrest Glen Annex in Silver Springs, Maryland.
The facility was constructed in 1953, as a vaccine-production facility, specifically providing living cells from the chimps to grow viruses for experimental vaccine production.
The culprit causing the illness was identified by Morris and colleagues as a virus, and given the name Chimpanzee Coryza Agent (CCA).
Curious about the contagiousness of the virus, the researchers purposefully exposed a second group of adult chimps housed in a nearby facility to the virus. They were able to recreate the respiratory infection, and document the contagiousness of the virus among chimpanzees.
In February of 1956,