Researchers reveal darker side of the common cold

January 9, 2012 By Carole Bartoo, Vanderbilt Medical Center

(Medical Xpress) -- Human rhinovirus (HRV), also known as the common cold, can be uncommonly serious for certain children, a study led by a Vanderbilt University Medical Center pediatrician shows.

The study, published in the Dec. 28, 2011 online issue of the journal Pediatrics, shows that not only can HRV lead to hospitalization in very (VLBW) babies, but surprisingly, even more babies are hospitalized with HRV than with (RSV), which is known to be dangerous to tiny babies.

For the study, lead author E. Kathryn Miller, M.D., MPH, assistant professor of Pediatrics, Allergy and Immunology, and senior author, infectious disease specialist Fernando Polack, M.D., the Cesar Milstein Professor of Pediatrics, followed 119 VLBW babies for two years through the INFANT Foundation Network in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Babies were tested with every respiratory illness during the first year of life to see which viruses they caught and how ill they became. It was the first prospective comparison of RSV and HRV illness in these babies.

“People think HRV really only affects older children and adults and is not a serious disease. We found HRV was linked with 33 percent of the hospitalizations compared with RSV, which caused 25 percent of their hospitalizations over the course of a year,” Miller said.

While RSV infection was more likely to lead to hospitalization, it was much less common and had a well-defined peak season. In contrast, HRV infected over half of the babies, and led to hospitalizations throughout the whole year.

Miller said there is also evidence of a link between HRV and childhood asthma. In the second study, Miller, Polack and their colleagues at INFANT in Argentina prospectively examined about 200 asthmatics severely impacted by wheezing during a cold, compared with 200 asthmatic children with a cold who did not wheeze.

This research, published Dec. 1, 2011, in the American Journal of Respiratory Critical Care Medicine, focused on the role of one of the body’s natural defenses, an antiviral called Type 3 Interferon (INF) (Lambda) 1 in HRV infections.

“There was clearly an association of acute wheezing with HRV. We looked at several theories about the mechanism including viral load and type, as well as various inflammatory and allergic cytokine mediators, but weren’t finding a link to wheezing," Miller said.

“Then we found Type 3 INF (Lambda) 1 was high in wheezing asthmatic kids with HRV. This was a bit unexpected because Interferons are antiviral and have been thought to reduce the impact of HRV,” Miller said.

Another smaller study showed that certain individuals with asthma may start out with a Type 3 IFN (Lambda) 1 deficiency.

In the lab, primary airway epithelial cells from those individuals were introduced to HRV causing a dramatic increase in levels of Type 3 IFN (Lambda) 1.

In the population-based study, the higher the levels of this type of interferon in the respiratory tract, the more severe the wheezing.

Miller says there are confounding factors, like environment and population, that need to be explored further. She is already working with investigators at the INFANT Foundation in Argentina to follow the VLBW population from the Pediatrics study further to examine development of asthma.

Romina Libster, M.D., an Argentinean , is a co-author on both studies, which were made possible through collaborative initiatives the Vanderbilt Vaccine Center is conducting in Argentina with the INFANT Foundation.

Explore further: Insights gained from growing cold-causing virus on sinus tissue

Related Stories

Insights gained from growing cold-causing virus on sinus tissue

April 10, 2011
Using sinus tissue removed during surgery at University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics, researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have managed to grow a recently discovered species of human rhinovirus (HRV), the ...

Recommended for you

Creation of synthetic horsepox virus could lead to more effective smallpox vaccine

January 19, 2018
UAlberta researchers created a new synthetic virus that could lead to the development of a more effective vaccine against smallpox. The discovery demonstrates how techniques based on the use of synthetic DNA can be used to ...

Study ends debate over role of steroids in treating septic shock

January 19, 2018
The results from the largest ever study of septic shock could improve treatment for critically ill patients and save health systems worldwide hundreds of millions of dollars each year.

New approach could help curtail hospitalizations due to influenza infection

January 18, 2018
More than 700,000 Americans were hospitalized due to illnesses associated with the seasonal flu during the 2014-15 flu season, according to federal estimates. A radical new approach to vaccine development at UCLA may help ...

Zika virus damages placenta, which may explain malformed babies

January 18, 2018
Though the Zika virus is widely known for a recent outbreak that caused children to be born with microencephaly, or having a small head, and other malformations, scientists have struggled to explain how the virus affects ...

Certain flu virus mutations may compensate for fitness costs of other mutations

January 18, 2018
Seasonal flu viruses continually undergo mutations that help them evade the human immune system, but some of these mutations can reduce a virus's potency. According to new research published in PLOS Pathogens, certain mutations ...

Study reveals how MRSA infection compromises lymphatic function

January 17, 2018
Infections of the skin or other soft tissues with the hard-to-treat MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) bacteria appear to permanently compromise the lymphatic system, which is crucial to immune system function. ...


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.