DALLAS Oct. 21, 2008 Conventional wisdom has been that respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) a common virus that causes infection in the lungs comes and goes in children without any long lasting impact.
A study conducted in mice by UT Southwestern Medical Center researchers, however, suggests that RSV may hide in the lungs even after other symptoms abate, ultimately resurfacing to cause recurrent wheezing and chronic airway disease.
"This research suggests that there's a potential new mechanism for asthma related to viral infections in children that could be associated with RSV," said Dr. Asuncion Mejias, assistant professor of pediatrics at UT Southwestern and senior author of a study available online and in the Nov. 15 issue of the Journal of Infectious Diseases. "These findings could aid in the development of preventive and therapeutic interventions for children with recurrent wheezing due to a virus such as RSV."
RSV is the leading cause of viral respiratory infections and hospitalizations in infants and children worldwide. Half of all babies develop an RSV infection within the first year of life and practically all have had at least one RSV infection by age 3, said Dr. Octavio Ramilo, professor of pediatrics at UT Southwestern and study co-author. About 3 percent to 10 percent of infants with RSV infections develop severe bronchitis and require hospitalization.
Most children recover within a week, but RSV can cause repeated infections throughout life. There is currently no vaccine available.
Dr. Ramilo said the team's findings contradict the current thinking that ribonucleic acid viruses like RSV are easily destroyed. "Whether RSV persists in children remains to be seen, but the fact that the virus persists in mice is amazingly powerful," he said.
The most striking finding, Dr. Mejias said, is that the amount of virus detected in the lungs of the mice directly correlates with the severity
|Contact: Kristen Holland Shear|
UT Southwestern Medical Center