RSV Infection during Infancy Increases the Risk of Childhood Asthma

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Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) infection is a major cause of bronchiolitis and pneumonia in infants under 1-year-old. In addition, new research from Vanderbilt University Medical Center indicates that RSV infection in the first year of life is linked to a higher risk of asthma in children later on. This is the first study to investigate the relationship between different levels of RSV infections and asthma risk in children.

RSV is common in children before two years

Almost all kids acquire the virus before reaching the age of two and subsequently throughout their lives. Typically, the symptoms are mild and subside within a week. However, premature or young infants and individuals with chronic lung disease or congenital heart disease may suffer severe illness or death due to RSV infection.

Study author and assistant professor of Pediatrics specializing in Allergy, Immunology, and Pulmonary Medicine Christian Rosas-Salazar said RSV infection is the leading cause of hospitalizations for respiratory problems in infants during their first year.

According to Tina Hartert, MD, MPH, senior author of the study, there has been a repeated recognition of the connection between severe RSV and asthma for the past six decades. However, the shared heredity of both conditions can partially explain this association. She adds that the solution to comprehend the relationship between RSV and asthma is to use molecular techniques and post-season serology to capture all RSV infections.

Health children not infected in the first year have a low risk of developing asthma

The study found that healthy children who were not infected with RSV in their first year of life had a significantly lower risk of developing childhood asthma. The association between RSV infection during infancy and childhood asthma was found to be age-dependent. Childhood asthma affects around 8% of children in the US. RSV infection symptoms, including runny nose, coughing, fever, and wheezing, appear within four to six days. However, generally healthy patients recover in a week or two without hospitalization or specific treatment, and no vaccine for the virus is available yet.

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