RSV in Baby’s First Year Could Raise Their Risk of Asthma, Study Says
As we emerge from a winter that saw a record-breaking amount of severe respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) cases, it appears that another respiratory disease may be following in its wake.
Researchers have found that babies who contract RSV in their first year of life may have a higher risk of developing asthma. RSV is a common respiratory virus that shares many of the same symptoms as a bad cold. It is the leading cause of hospitalizations worldwide for respiratory issues in the first year of life.
The study included more than 1,900 healthy babies who were 6 months old or younger at the start of RSV season, primarily between November and March.
About 54 percent of infants contracted RSV in their first year of life, while the remaining 46 percent did not. The researchers evaluated the children for asthma at age 5 and found that those who weren’t infected with RSV in their first year of life had a 26 percent lower risk of asthma at age 5.
While nearly all children will contract RSV by age 2, researchers have observed a noticeable impact when babies catch RSV in their first year. They suggest that since the first year of life is important to lung and immune development, a severe RSV infection could lead to certain abnormalities that can later cause asthma.
The study’s senior author, Tina Hartert, MD, notes that while a link between severe RSV and asthma has been identified for many years now, the study has shown that this link is partly explained by shared heredity to both severe RSV and asthma. I.e., mom passes down these susceptibilities to baby. So, as several companies race to create an RSV vaccine this summer, it’s more important than ever to get moms on board with vaccinating themselves to help their little ones.
Researchers hope the study’s discoveries will motivate long-term follow-up of common respiratory outcomes (like asthma) among children currently in clinical trials for the vaccines. If RSV vaccines show efficacy against childhood asthma, they expect more moms will be willing to roll up their sleeves—potentially decreasing childhood asthma diagnoses dramatically for years to come.
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