Epidemiological data suggest that respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) infection in early life is a risk factor for later asthma. There are no prospective studies on RSV infection starting from infancy progressing through childhood into adulthood. We followed up a cohort of children, hospitalized for RSV bronchiolitis or RSV pneumonia before age 24 months, until age 18-20 years. The aim of the study was to evaluate early RSV infection as a risk factor for asthma, bronchial reactivity, and lung function abnormalities in young adults. The participants filled in a questionnaire on asthma and asthma-like symptoms. The clinical study included flow-volume spirometry (FVS), methacholine inhalation challenge (MIC), home PEF (peak expiratory flow) monitoring, and skin prick tests (SPT) to common allergens. Asthma was present in 17-22% of 36 index subjects, depending on asthma definition, compared to 11% of 45 controls. Furthermore, FEV% and MEF25 were lower, and MEF50 tended to be lower, in index than in control subjects. One or more abnormal lung function results were found in 16 (44%) index subjects, but only in 5 (11%) controls (P < 0.01). Bronchial reactivity (PD20 <4,900 microg methacholine) was demonstrated in 16 (46%) index subjects and 14 (32%) controls (NS). At least one positive SPT result was present in 21 (60%) index subjects; 6 (29%) had asthma (NS vs. nonatopic index subjects); 13 (62%) had abnormal lung function (P < 0.05); and 14 (67%) had bronchial reactivity (P < 0.01). In the logistic regression adjusted for atopy, as defined by SPT positivity, RSV infection in infancy was an independent risk factor for lung function abnormality (one or more abnormal results in FVS; OR, 5.27; 95% CI, 1.60-17.36), and also for decreased FEV% and MEF50 when these were analyzed separately. However, RSV infection in infancy was not a significant risk factor for asthma or bronchial reactivity. In young adults, lung function abnormalities may be associated with RSV infection which required hospitalization in infancy.
Copyright 2004 Wiley-Liss, Inc.