Background: Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) infections during infancy are considered to be a risk factor for developing asthma and possibly allergic sensitization.
Objective: The aim of this study was to investigate the cytokines, chemokines, and eosinophil cationic protein in the nasopharyngeal secretions of infants < or = 7 months of age with RSV infections or other respiratory viral infections and healthy infants as controls. Groups were also analyzed according to age, < or = 3 months and >3 months, and the levels were compared within and between groups.
Results: Thirty-nine infants with RSV, 9 with influenza or parainfluenza virus infections and 50 controls with no history of infections, were enrolled in the study. The RSV-infected infants had significantly higher levels of IL-4; macrophage inflammatory protein 1beta, a chemoattractant for T cells; and eosinophil cationic protein in nasopharyngeal secretions compared with the control group. The levels of the TH2 cytokine IL-4 were significantly higher in RSV-infected infants < or = months of age compared with RSV-infected infants >3 months of age. In infants < or = 3 months of age, infections with influenza or parainfluenza virus caused TH2-like responses similar to those produced by RSV.
Conclusion: Infections with RSV as well as with influenza and parainfluenza virus during early infancy preferentially promote a TH2-like response in the nose with local production of IL-4, IL-5, and macrophage inflammatory protein 1beta and infiltration and activation of eosinophils.