PITTSBURGH — Researchers at UPMC Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh are working to cure a leading cause of the common cold.
Human metapneumovirus (MPV) can cause respiratory infections in children and infects everyone by age 5.
"If one of your kids gets a cold around February or March and they bring it home to you," Dr. John Williams said, "that could likely be MPV or metapneumovirus."
Williams is developing the vaccine. He's been studying MPV since it was discovered in 2001, but said it's been around for hundreds of years and can be deadly.
"Although most people who get MPV are just going to have a cold," Williams said, "plenty of people – kids and adults – are going to be hospitalized every year and some of them are going to die."
That's why health experts, including Dr. Jennifer Preiss, a pediatrician at Allegheny Health Network, believe developing a vaccine is so crucial.
"That is huge," Preiss said. "Less hospitalizations, less mortality and morbidity."
Preiss and Williams agree an MPV vaccine could potentially prevent more than just the cold.
"I think it's more going to have an impact on how many small children get hospitalized for wheezing episodes," Dr. Preiss said, "how many older patients or patients that have lung and heart disease get hospitalized."
Most importantly, doctors believe a vaccine could also cut down on cases of pneumonia and the flu, which killed close to 80,000 Americans last year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"A vaccine for MPV could help prevent disease in everyone because, unlike some illnesses that only some people get or maybe you only get if you travel to certain places, everybody gets MPV," Williams said.
Williams hopes to combine his MPV vaccine with a cure for respiratory syncytial virus, a similar virus with a vaccine further along in development. Williams said his cure could hit the market in the next five years.
Patients like grandmother Elima Leoni can't wait.
"That sounds great," Leoni said, "almost like a miracle."
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