Preterm birth is associated with increased risk of asthma and wheezing disorders

Children who are born preterm have an increased risk developing asthma and wheezing disorders during childhood according to new research published in PLOS Medicine.

The research by Jasper Been, from the Maastricht University Medical Centre (Netherlands) and The University of Edinburgh (UK), and colleagues at Harvard Medical School (US) is a and meta-analysis of 30 unique studies that collectively involved approximately 1.5 million children. The authors found that children born preterm (before 37 weeks of gestation) were about 46% more likely to develop asthma or a wheezing disorder during childhood, than babies at full term (≥ 37 weeks of gestation). The authors also found that children born very preterm (<32 weeks of gestation) were at even higher risk of developing asthma or a wheezing disorder, almost three times as likely as children born at full term. The authors estimate that if no preterm births had occurred, there would have been more than a 3.1% reduction in childhood wheezing disorders.

The findings are important because increasing numbers of preterm babies survive today thanks to improvements in the management of prematurity, with approximately 11% of children now being born preterm. However, accumulating evidence suggests that early life events are involved in the subsequent development of non-communicable diseases. Given the increasing burden of preterm birth, a better understanding of the long-term effects of preterm birth is essential.

The authors say, "[t]he current findings do not support prior suggestions that the association between preterm birth and wheezing disorders becomes less prominent with increasing age [...] Instead, the strength of the association was similar across age groups [up to 18 years], suggesting that the pulmonary consequences of preterm birth tend to persist throughout the life course."

They conclude, "[t]here is compelling evidence that preterm birth—particularly very preterm birth—increases the risk of asthma. Given the projected global increases in surviving preterm births, research now needs to focus on understanding underlying mechanisms, and then to translate these insights into the development of preventive interventions."

More information: Been JV, Lugtenberg MJ, Smets E, van Schayck CP, Kramer BW, et al. (2014) Preterm Birth and Childhood Wheezing Disorders: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. PLoS Med 11(1): e1001596. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1001596

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Insulin sensitivity lower in adults born preterm

Sep 27, 2012

(HealthDay)—Middle-aged adults who were born preterm, even moderately preterm (32 to 36 weeks' gestation), are less insulin sensitive compared with adults who were born at term, according to research published ...

Recommended for you

Ebola reveals shortcomings of African solidarity

16 hours ago

As Africa's leaders meet in Ethiopia to discuss the Ebola crisis, expectations of firm action will be tempered by criticism over the continent's poor record in the early stages of the epidemic.

Second bird flu case confirmed in Canada

Jan 30, 2015

The husband of a Canadian who was diagnosed earlier this week with bird flu after returning from a trip to China has also tested positive for the virus, health officials said Friday.

What exactly is coronavirus?

Jan 30, 2015

The conflicts in Syria and Iraq are straining public health systems and public health efforts meant to prevent and detect the spread of infectious diseases. This is generating a "perfect storm" of conditions for outbreaks. Among the infections raising concern is Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, caused by a type of coronavirus, which emerged in 2012. ...

Scientists find Ebola virus is mutating

Jan 30, 2015

(Medical Xpress)—Researchers working at Institut Pasteur in France have found that the Ebola virus is mutating "a lot" causing concern in the African countries where the virus has killed over eight thous ...

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.