Health Watch -- A Cause for Asthma?

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A common childhood viral infection could increase the risk of asthma.

Researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas say RSV - a common viral infection - could increase the risk of developing asthma.

RSV is the leading cause of viral respiratory infections in children and infants worldwide. Half of all babies develop an RSV infection during the first year of their lives, and by the age of 3, almost all children have had at least one RSV infection. Most children just get over the infection, but some develop more serious symptoms, like bronchitis that requires hospitalization or wheezing symptoms that develop into asthma.

Doctors had suspected that there was a link between RSV and asthma, but hadn't been able to prove it. UT Southwestern researchers monitored mice infected with RSV and found that infected mice were more likely to develop lung problems, including asthma symptoms, than healthy mice were. The UT Southwestern researchers also found that treating the infected mice with an anti-RSV antibody showed improvement, whether or not they were treated with other drugs.

Dr. Octavio Ramilo, the UT Southwestern pediatrician who led the study, says these results may mean that a commercially available antibody could possibly help prevent high-risk babies from developing asthma after an RSV infection.

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July 2004

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