The Food and Drug Administration recently approved the use of palivizumab (palē-vizhū-mäb), an intramuscularly administered monoclonal antibody preparation. Recommendations for its use are based on a large, randomized study demonstrating a 55% reduction in the risk of hospitalization attributable to respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) infections in high-risk pediatric patients. Infants and children with chronic lung disease (CLD), formerly designated bronchopulmonary dysplasia, as well as prematurely born infants without CLD experienced a reduced number of hospitalizations while receiving palivizumab compared with a placebo. Both palivizumab and respiratory syncytial virus immune globulin intravenous (RSV-IGIV) are available for protecting high-risk children against serious complications from RSV infections. Palivizumab is preferred for most high-risk children because of ease of administration (intramuscular), lack of interference with measles–mumps–rubella vaccine and varicella vaccine, and lack of complications associated with intravenous administration of human immune globulin products. RSV-IGIV, however, provides additional protection against other respiratory viral illnesses and may be preferred for selected high-risk children including those receiving replacement intravenous immune globulin because of underlying immune deficiency or human immuno-deficiency virus infection. For premature infants about to be discharged from hospitals during the RSV season, physicians could consider administering RSV-IGIV for the first month of prophylaxis.

Most of the guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics for the selection of infants and children to receive RSV-prophylaxis remain unchanged. Palivizumab has been shown to provide benefit for infants who were 32 to 35 weeks of gestation at birth. RSV-IGIV is contraindicated and palivizumab is not recommended for children with cyanotic congenital heart disease. The number of patients with adverse events judged to be related to palivizumab was similar to that of the placebo group (11% vs 10%, respectively); discontinuation of injections for adverse events related to palivizumab was rare.

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