HOUSTON -

New research could save the lives of some babies.

Scientists say they are close to a vaccine that could prevent a severe respiratory disease that's so common, most children get it before the age of two.

The condition is called RSV or respiratory synctial virus. It causes infections in the lungs and respiratory tract. When adults get it, it's like a common cold. But when babies get it, they often have trouble breathing and end up in the hospital.

"The one thing that stuck out was the fast breathing," Renata Gould, a mother of child who had RSV. "It is scary because he's only nine months old."

Gould's son was not eating or sleeping and he had a fever. Doctors admitted him to the hospital and diagnosed the little boy with bronchiolitis -- an inflammation of the lower airways in the lungs typically caused by RSV.

"I like to think of it as the same congestion you get in your nose when you get a cold, but it's happening in your lower areas of your lungs, so causing more breathing symptoms there," said Dr. Aisha Davis, a physician with Children's National Health System.

Doctors say RSV infections can be serious. It's the leading cause of hospitalizations among infants and 7 percent of all childhood deaths are caused by RSV-related pneumonia.

"It's really one of the most serious viral diseases that afflict children," said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Health's Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. "Also, elderly people can get affected and get sick, particularly those older than 65 years old."

But doctors say new research may be able to save some of those lives. Scientists at the NIH say they are close to a vaccine.

Using complex technology, researchers created 3-D models of the virus before it invades the body. From there, they were able to isolate parts of the virus that they were never able to see before. In animal testing, those compounds actually were able to stop an RSV infection.

"You could predict that it's going to have a protective effect on humans," Fauci said.

Fauci says this is the first time scientists have seen such promising research in the fight against RSV. Up until now, there's not much in the way of treatment. Patients usually just need to wait it out.

The next step is to test the vaccine on humans in a clinical trial.