RSV may raise childhood asthma risk, Vanderbilt researchers find

Infants who contract respiratory syncytial virus in the first year of life may have a greater risk of childhood asthma, according to new findings led by researchers at Nashville, Tenn.-based Vanderbilt University Medical Center. 

The findings were published April 19 in The Lancet. Of 1,946 eligible healthy infants enrolled in the study, 89 percent had available data to assess RSV infection status in the first year of life. About 54 percent of infants contracted the virus before turning 1. Infants who weren't infected in that time frame had a 26 percent lower risk of having asthma at age 5, according to the findings. 

"Our findings show an age-dependent association between RSV infection during infancy and childhood asthma," said Christian Rosas-Salazar, MD, study author and assistant professor of pediatrics in the division of Allergy, immunology and pulmonary Medicine at Vanderbilt. 

Most children contract the virus by age the age of 2. 

"We focused on the first year of life because we think the first year is a very important period of lung and immune development," Dr. Rosas-Salazar said. "We believe that when a child is infected with RSV in the first year of life, when the lungs and immune system are still under development, that could lead to certain abnormalities that can later cause asthma." 

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