Rhinovirus-induced wheezing in infancy--the first sign of childhood asthma?

J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2003 Jan;111(1):66-71. doi: 10.1067/mai.2003.33.


Background: Although known as common causes of upper respiratory infections, rhinoviruses, enteroviruses, and corona-viruses are poorly studied as inducers of wheezing in infants, and their possible role in the development of childhood asthma has not been investigated.

Objective: The purposes of this study were to assess the occurrence of RV, enterovirus, and coronavirus infections in wheezing infants and to evaluate the association of these viral findings with early school-age asthma.

Methods: In 1999, outcome in relation to asthma was studied in 82 of 100 initially recruited children who had been hospitalized for wheezing in infancy during the period 1992-1993. In 2000, etiologic viral studies regarding the index episode of wheezing were supplemented by rhinovirus, enterovirus, and coronavirus detection by RT-PCR from frozen nasopharyngeal aspirates in 81 of the children for whom adequate samples were available. Of these children, 66 had participated in the follow-up in 1999.

Results: Rhinoviruses were identified in 27 (33%) of the 81 children, enteroviruses in 10 (12%), and coronaviruses in none. Rhinoviruses were present as single viral findings in 22 (81%) of the 27 rhinovirus-positive cases, and rhinovirus infections were associated with the presence of atopic dermatitis in infancy. Enteroviruses were commonly encountered in mixed infections and had no association with atopy. As single viral findings, rhinoviruses were associated with the development of asthma (P =.047; odds ratio, 4.14; 95% CI, 1.02-16.77 versus rhinovirus-negative cases [by logistic regression adjusted for age, sex, and atopic dermatitis on entry)].

Conclusion: Our results present rhinoviruses as important inducers of wheezing even in infancy. The association with atopy and subsequent asthma calls for reevaluation of the role of rhinoviruses in the development of asthma.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Asthma / epidemiology
  • Asthma / virology*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Coronavirus Infections / complications
  • Enterovirus Infections / complications
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Prevalence
  • Prospective Studies
  • Respiratory Sounds / etiology*
  • Respiratory Syncytial Viruses / physiology*