The role of respiratory viruses in acute and chronic asthma

Clin Chest Med. 2000 Jun;21(2):289-300. doi: 10.1016/s0272-5231(05)70267-7.


Respiratory infections can have dual effects related to asthma. First, there is increasing evidence that severe infections with RSV and PIV in infancy can alter lung development and physiology to increase the risks of subsequent wheezing and asthma. Second, infections with common cold viruses and influenza commonly precipitate wheezing symptoms in children and adults who already have established asthma, and RV appears to be the most important virus in producing exacerbations of the disease. The principal mechanisms by which this occurs appears to be viral replication in epithelial cells, triggering a cascade of inflammation involving granulocytes, macrophages, T cells, and secreted cytokines and mediators. The inflammatory process, although essential to clear the infection, augments pre-existing airway inflammation in asthma, leading to increased airway obstruction and lower respiratory tract symptoms. Greater understanding of virus-induced changes in inflammation and corresponding changes in airway physiology may lead to new therapeutic approaches to the treatment and prevention of virus-induced airway dysfunction.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Animals
  • Asthma / physiopathology*
  • Asthma / virology*
  • Bronchial Hyperreactivity / physiopathology
  • Chronic Disease
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Humans
  • Paramyxoviridae Infections / complications*
  • Respiratory Syncytial Virus Infections / complications*