Scientists find predisposition to bronchiolitis in some babies

October 19, 2007

Scientists have found that a large proportion of infants who suffer from bronchiolitis have an inherent pre-disposition to the disease.

The disease is the most prevalent acute wheezing disorder in infants and is the most common cause of admission to hospital in the first year of life in the developed world. Around 25 in every 1,000 babies are admitted to hospital for bronchiolitis - needing oxygen and help with feeding - and of these, 10% need the support of a ventilator.

Bronchiolitis frequently develops in infants suffering from respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) infection. Although most infants infected with RSV have only mild symptoms such as a cough and wheeze some develop potentially life-threatening bronchiolitis. Babies born prematurely are particularly susceptible to the condition but what has puzzled scientists is that the majority of babies admitted to hospital are previously healthy and have not had an obvious reason for becoming so ill.

A new study by University of Liverpool scientists, based at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital, has found that previously healthy babies with severe disease have a different immune response to those with only mild symptoms. The study involved nearly 200 infants under two years old admitted to Alder Hey over a five-year period. On admission to hospital, those with severe disease were taking more than 50 breaths per minute and their blood oxygen levels were dangerously low.

The study found that those with severe bronchiolitis had lower levels of interferon-gamma and substance P in their airway secretions. Gamma interferon is an important substance made in the body which is used to fight viral infections. The role of substance P is less understood but is thought to be involved in the local inflammatory response in many parts of the body.

Dr Calum Semple, Senior Lecturer in Child Health at the University of Liverpool and Consultant Respiratory Paediatrician based at Alder Hey, said: “This work helps to explain a common observation about children who had bronchiolitis as babies. Parents often tell us that every time their child gets a cold ‘it goes straight to his chest’ and many parents and doctors believe that bronchiolitis in infancy is the cause of these chest problems in childhood.

“This study shows that it is the difference in the child’s ability to fight viruses that predisposes them to bronchiolitis in the first place. That poor ability to fight the condition is an innate feature of their immune system. Bronchiolitis just happens to be the commonest respiratory virus around and therefore the first virus a baby is likely to come across.

“Because the gamma interferon response is an important feature of the immune system in these children, they won’t handle subsequent respiratory viruses very well either. The association between bronchiolitis in babies and ‘chestiness’ in childhood is not causal or consequential but due to a common immune predisposition and is probably genetic.”

Source: University of Liverpool

Explore further: Doctors warn of a common respiratory illness in children

Related Stories

Doctors warn of a common respiratory illness in children

October 30, 2017
Like most moms, Shanisty Ireland had dealt with many bugs being passed between her three children. Last winter, she thought her newborn, Adam, had the same cold that had caused her older children to cough and sniffle. But ...

Pregnant women asked to take part in a vaccine trial to tackle a severe baby disease

October 4, 2017
Expectant mothers in London are among the first in the world to participate in a clinical trial of a possible vaccine against a virus which causes life threatening breathing problems in babies.

Household smoke increases severity of bronchiolitis in babies

July 20, 2011
A study by the University of Liverpool has found that babies admitted to hospital with bronchiolitis from a household where a parent smokes are twice as likely to need oxygen therapy and five times as likely to need mechanical ...

Study finds bronchiolitis severity depends on the virus, and questions the practice of rooming children together

April 4, 2012
A 16-hospital study, led by researchers at  Boston Children’s Hospital and Massachusetts General Hospital, is challenging common wisdom about bronchiolitis, a respiratory illness and the leading cause of hospitalization ...

Treatment strategy may reduce infants' wheezing caused by virus

November 19, 2014
(Medical Xpress)—The antibiotic azithromycin may reduce the risk of recurrent wheezing in infants hospitalized with a common respiratory infection, according to a small pilot study at Washington University School of Medicine ...

Researchers find genetic trigger for RSV-induced infant hospitalizations

April 8, 2014
Researchers at UNC School of Medicine have pinpointed a viral protein that plays a major role in making respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) the most common cause of hospitalization in children under one year of age.

Recommended for you

Anti-malaria drug shows promise as Zika virus treatment

November 17, 2017
A new collaborative study led by researchers at Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute (SBP) and UC San Diego School of Medicine has found that a medication used to prevent and treat malaria may also be effective ...

Decrease in sunshine, increase in Rickets

November 17, 2017
A University of Toronto student and professor have teamed up to discover that Britain's increasing cloudiness during the summer could be an important reason for the mysterious increase in Rickets among British children over ...

Scientists identify biomarkers that indicate likelihood of survival in infected patients

November 17, 2017
Scientists have identified a set of biomarkers that indicate which patients infected with the Ebola virus are most at risk of dying from the disease.

Research team unlocks secrets of Ebola

November 16, 2017
In a comprehensive and complex molecular study of blood samples from Ebola patients in Sierra Leone, published today (Nov. 16, 2017) in Cell Host and Microbe, a scientific team led by the University of Wisconsin-Madison has ...

Study raises possibility of naturally acquired immunity against Zika virus

November 16, 2017
Birth defects in babies born infected with Zika virus remain a major health concern. Now, scientists suggest the possibility that some women in high-risk Zika regions may already be protected and not know it.

A structural clue to attacking malaria's 'Achilles heel'

November 16, 2017
Researchers from The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) and PATH's Malaria Vaccine Initiative (MVI) have shed light on how the human immune system recognizes the malaria parasite though investigation of antibodies generated ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Argiod
1 / 5 (1) Oct 21, 2007
"...Gamma interferon is an important substance made in the body which is used to fight viral infections..."

And so, why is it we're not researching the use of Gamma interferon for the treatment of this class of diseases?

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.