Urban Infants More Prone to Asthma Than Suburban Infants

The latest publication in the journal of infectious diseases has reported that children in the urban areas are more prone to respiratory illnesses than their sub-urban counterparts.

Scientists from the University of Wisconsin, Madison studied the link between viral infections in children and development of asthma among urban infants versus suburban babies.

This, they feel will lead to better insights to drug development for pediatric asthma.

Urban-InfantsBackground of viral infections in infants

Asthma in childhood has been linked to viral illnesses of the respiratory tract during infancy. Studies on this have found that respiratory syncytial virus – RSV and more recently human rhinovirus – HRV infections are more probable culprits of asthma in children.

Studies have also indicated that some specific viral strains more prominent to the urban areas (with high levels of pollution) are more responsible for higher rates of asthma among urban children. To investigate the truths in these hypotheses, scientists at the University of Wisconsin have undertaken the following study.

Study on viral infections among infants and its outcomes

Lead researcher James Gern and his team collected nasal swabs of 500 infants from urban locales of 4 US cities – Boston, New York City, St. Louis and Baltimore; and 285 infants from the Madison which is suburban area in Wisconsin.

These samples were collected during periods of good health and during respiratory illness.  These findings were documented and subjected to analysis. The research came out with the following findings:

  1. Inner city infants exhibited lower rates of viral infection but had higher rate of respiratory illnesses. This led the scientists to suspect the hand of pollution, bacterial infections or allergic reactions.
  2. Urban infants were less prone to HRV and RSV viruses and more prone to adenoviruses as against sub-urban infants. 4.8% of the swabs from urban babies showed susceptibility to adenovirus as against 0.7% of the sub-urban babies.
  3. Adenovirus infections are caused repetitively and lead to impairment in development of lungs and other related respiratory organs in these babies.
  4. Earlier studies on respiratory illnesses among infants showed that HRV and RSV were responsible for the repeated respiratory infections among infants and this led to the development of asthma among these children, in later stages of the childhood.
  5. But the current study has found that exposure to urban environment is responsible for more attacks by adenovirus as compared to the sub-urban environment.

Prompted by the leads provided by this study, the authors are planning to follow these urban infants for the next 10 years and determine if adenovirus is the ultimate culprit for asthma among urban children.


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