Inner city infants have different patterns of viral respiratory illness than infants in the suburbs

September 26, 2012

Children living in low-income urban areas appear especially prone to developing asthma, possibly related to infections they acquire early in life. In a new study in The Journal of Infectious Diseases, available online, researchers from the University of Wisconsin in Madison investigated viral respiratory illnesses and their possible role in the development of asthma in urban versus suburban babies. The differences in viral illness patterns they found provide insights that could help guide the development of new asthma treatments in children.

Viral have been linked previously to the development of asthma in childhood. Early studies investigated the association of (RSV) and the onset of asthma. More recent studies have shown that children with (HRV) infections have a greater chance of developing asthma by age 6 than children with . Additionally, it has been suggested that particular may be more likely than others to promote asthma development. Because children living in urban inner cities have different than children in suburban areas, the authors of this latest study hypothesized that the types of would also be unique to each environment.

To document patterns of in infants living in urban and suburban locations, James E. Gern, MD, and his team of investigators collected nasal secretions from 500 infants from four inner-city areas in the U.S. (Boston, Baltimore, New York City, and St. Louis) and 285 infants from suburban Madison, Wis. Nasal secretions were sampled during periods when the babies had respiratory illnesses and when they were healthy.

The inner-city infants had lower rates of overall. This may suggest that other factors, such as bacteria or allergic reactions to pollutions or toxic exposures, contribute significantly to respiratory illness. Sick urban infants had lower rates of two kinds of viruses, HRV and RSV, and higher rates of adenovirus infections, compared to suburban infants. In the urban babies, 4.8 percent of nasal washes tested positive for only adenovirus, while just 0.7 percent of samples from suburban babies were positive for only adenovirus. "Adenovirus infections, either as a single pathogen or when detected in concert with other viruses, were significantly more common in the urban population, and this held true for each of the four urban locations where our study was conducted," the authors wrote.

This is of particular interest, the researchers noted, because adenovirus can cause persistent infections. The study authors believe this may suggest that development of the lungs or airways could be altered by adenovirus infections in early life.

In an accompanying editorial, Peter W. Heymann, MD, and Thomas A.E. Platts-Mills, MD, PhD, of the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, noted that the findings are of interest given the pervasiveness and the morbidity and mortality of asthma in poor urban areas. "The results clearly show differences in the detection of viral infections during the first year of life," they wrote, "and this approach is likely to provide novel insights that will serve to guide the development of treatment interventions to decrease the prevalence and severity of asthma during childhood."

In an effort to better understand the origins of non-viral respiratory illnesses, Dr. Gern and colleagues are planning experiments to evaluate other pathogens and microbes in the airways. They also plan to follow the urban children in this study for at least 10 years to "test the hypothesis that infections with adenoviruses might be associated later on in childhood with an increased rate of asthma and perhaps lower levels of lung function."

Explore further: Viral infections in infancy are not associated with wheezing symptoms in later childhood

Related Stories

Viral infections in infancy are not associated with wheezing symptoms in later childhood

May 23, 2012
The number of viral infections during infancy is not associated with wheezing later in childhood, according to a new study from researchers in the Netherlands. While viral illnesses with wheezing in infancy predicted wheezing ...

Recommended for you

Superbug's spread to Vietnam threatens malaria control

September 21, 2017
A highly drug resistant malaria 'superbug' from western Cambodia is now present in southern Vietnam, leading to alarming failure rates for dihydroartemisinin (DHA)-piperaquine—Vietnam's national first-line malaria treatment, ...

Individualized diets for irritable bowel syndrome better than placebo

September 21, 2017
Patients with irritable bowel syndrome who follow individualized diets based on food sensitivity testing experience fewer symptoms, say Yale researchers. Their study is among the first to provide scientific evidence for this ...

A dose of 'wait-and-see' reduces unnecessary antibiotic use

September 21, 2017
Asking patients to take a 'wait-and-see' approach before having their antibiotic prescriptions filled significantly reduces unnecessary use, a University of Queensland study has shown.

Investigators may unlock mystery of how staph cells dodge the body's immune system

September 21, 2017
For years, medical investigators have tried and failed to develop vaccines for a type of staph bacteria associated with the deadly superbug MRSA. But a new study by Cedars-Sinai investigators shows how staph cells evade the ...

Groundbreaking investigative effort identifies gonorrhea vaccine candidates

September 19, 2017
Researchers at Oregon State University have identified a pair of proteins that show promise as the basis for a gonorrhea vaccine.

Snail fever progression linked to nitric oxide production

September 14, 2017
Bilharzia, caused by a parasitic worm found in freshwater called Schistosoma, infects around 200 million people globally and its advance can lead to death, especially in children in developing countries.

0 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.