The role of viruses in acute exacerbations of asthma

J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2010 Jun;125(6):1178-87; quiz 1188-9. doi: 10.1016/j.jaci.2010.04.021.


Viral respiratory infections are the most common cause of an acute asthma exacerbation in both children and adults and represent a significant global health burden. An increasing body of evidence supports the hypothesis that these infections cause a greater degree of morbidity in asthmatic subjects than in the healthy population, emphasizing a discrepancy in the antiviral response of asthmatics. In this review we discuss why such a discrepancy might exist, examining the role of the bronchial epithelium as well as the main inflammatory cells, mediators, and molecular pathways that are involved in the immune response. In addition, the potential impact of virus-induced asthma exacerbations on airway remodelling is reviewed and we explore which therapeutic options might be of benefit in preventing the deterioration of asthma control seen following viral infection.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones / therapeutic use
  • Adrenergic beta-Agonists / therapeutic use
  • Adult
  • Airway Remodeling / immunology
  • Asthma / etiology
  • Asthma / immunology*
  • Asthma / therapy
  • Child
  • Humans
  • Immunity*
  • Inflammation Mediators / immunology
  • NF-kappa B / immunology
  • Picornaviridae Infections / complications
  • Picornaviridae Infections / immunology*
  • Picornaviridae Infections / therapy
  • Respiratory Mucosa / immunology
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / complications
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / immunology*
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / therapy
  • Rhinovirus / immunology*
  • Rhinovirus / pathogenicity
  • Signal Transduction / immunology


  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones
  • Adrenergic beta-Agonists
  • Inflammation Mediators
  • NF-kappa B