In a new Respirology study, having measles—a highly contagious respiratory infection—during early childhood was linked with an increased risk of developing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in middle age, but only in adults with asthma and a considerable history of smoking.
While additional research is needed to confirm the findings, scientists speculate that airway damage from childhood measles may predispose an individual to asthma-like symptoms and increased susceptibility to airway obstruction if they also smoked.
"While we have found measles to not have an effect by itself, our findings suggest that infection in early childhood could contribute to COPD when combined with significant asthma and smoking histories," said lead author Dr. Jennifer Perret, of The University of Melbourne, in Australia.
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Jennifer L. Perret et al, Childhood measles contributes to post-bronchodilator airflow obstruction in middle-aged adults: A cohort study, Respirology (2018). DOI: 10.1111/resp.13297