Long-term consequences of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) bronchiolitis

Paediatr Respir Rev. 2000 Sep;1(3):221-7. doi: 10.1053/prrv.2000.0052.


Despite differences in study design, follow-up studies consistently show that approximately half of the infants with respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) lower respiratory tract infection (LRTI) go on to have recurrent wheezing episodes during childhood. Respiratory symptoms are associated with abnormal lung function, including bronchial hyper-responsiveness. Wheezing symptoms following RSV LRTI gradually decrease, and it appears that during school age airway morbidity is no longer related to RSV LRTI during infancy. Mechanisms underlying the association between RSV LRTI and long-term airway morbidity are poorly understood. On the one hand, abnormal airway function that is congenitally present or acquired before RSV LRTI occurs could be the cause of both RSV LRTI and subsequent recurrent wheezing. On the other hand, it is possible that RSV LRTI causes changes in the lower airways or the immune system that result in long-term airway morbidity. Animal models suggest that RSV infection can promote the development of allergic sensitization, but most studies in humans do not indicate a role for atopy in the development of recurrent wheezing following RSV LRTI.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bronchiolitis, Viral / complications*
  • Bronchiolitis, Viral / physiopathology
  • Bronchiolitis, Viral / virology*
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Respiratory Sounds / etiology*
  • Respiratory Sounds / physiopathology
  • Respiratory Syncytial Virus Infections / complications*
  • Respiratory Syncytial Virus Infections / physiopathology
  • Respiratory Syncytial Virus, Human