Effects of viral respiratory infections on lung development and childhood asthma

J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2005 Apr;115(4):668-74; quiz 675. doi: 10.1016/j.jaci.2005.01.057.


Viral infections are closely linked to wheezing in infancy, and those children with recurrent virus-induced wheezing episodes are at great risk for chronic childhood asthma. Infancy is a time of increased susceptibility to viral infections, and this stage is also characterized by pulmonary alveolar multiplication and extensive remodeling of the airways to accommodate growth. This coincidence, together with the observation that children with asthma can have structural lung changes and functional deficits at an early age, suggests that viral infections could adversely affect lung development. Inflammatory mediators induced by viral infection are known to have effects on the remodeling process, suggesting a plausible mechanism to support this theory. Furthermore, animal models of viral infection during lung growth and development suggest that developmental factors are important in determining the consequences of infection on long-term lung function. Greater understanding of the effects of viral infections on lung development and growth in early childhood might lead to the discovery of additional strategies for the prevention of recurrent wheezing and chronic asthma.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Asthma / virology*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Humans
  • Lung / growth & development*
  • Lung / virology*
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / physiopathology
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / virology*
  • Virus Diseases / physiopathology*