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Studies involving a protein that resides in the membrane of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV)—called the fusion (F) glycoprotein—have enabled researchers to develop an experimental vaccine against the virus (McLellan JS et al. Science. 2013;342: 592-598). Currently, there is no vaccine available to prevent RSV infection.
Before the F glycoprotein fuses with a human cell, it contains a region vulnerable to attack by broadly neutralizing antibodies. Once RSV fuses with a cell, this vulnerable area—named antigenic site zero—is no longer present. Because naturally occurring antibodies to antigenic site zero have much stronger neutralizing activity than antibodies that target postfusion forms of F glycoprotein, investigators created stable prefusion F glycoprotein variants that could serve as the foundation for a potent vaccine.
Hampton T. Findings May Lead to Better Vaccine for Respiratory Syncytial Virus. JAMA. 2013;310(22):2389. doi:10.1001/jama.2013.283210