Evidence for a causal relationship between respiratory syncytial virus infection and asthma

Expert Rev Anti Infect Ther. 2011 Sep;9(9):731-45. doi: 10.1586/eri.11.92.


Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) infects all children early in life, is the most common cause of infant lower respiratory tract infections, and causes disease exacerbations in children with asthma. Episodes of lower respiratory tract infection in early life are associated with asthma development. Whether RSV infection early in life directly causes asthma or simply identifies infants who are genetically predisposed to develop subsequent wheezing is debatable. Recent studies suggest that these two explanations are not mutually exclusive, and are likely both important in asthma development. An open-label study of RSV immunoprophylaxis administered to preterm infants reduced recurrent wheezing by 50%. Clinical trials of infant RSV prevention, delay or severity reduction on the outcome of childhood asthma would confirm the causal relationship between RSV infection and asthma, and offer a primary prevention strategy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Asthma / complications*
  • Asthma / epidemiology
  • Asthma / genetics
  • Asthma / immunology
  • Asthma / physiopathology
  • Asthma / prevention & control
  • Asthma / virology
  • Child
  • Cytokines / analysis
  • Cytokines / immunology
  • Epidemiologic Studies
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease
  • Genetic Variation
  • Humans
  • Immunization
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Premature
  • Respiratory Sounds / etiology*
  • Respiratory Sounds / physiopathology
  • Respiratory Syncytial Virus Infections / complications*
  • Respiratory Syncytial Virus Infections / epidemiology
  • Respiratory Syncytial Virus Infections / genetics
  • Respiratory Syncytial Virus Infections / immunology
  • Respiratory Syncytial Virus Infections / physiopathology
  • Respiratory Syncytial Virus Infections / prevention & control
  • Respiratory Syncytial Virus Infections / virology
  • Respiratory Syncytial Virus, Human / immunology*
  • Risk Factors
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • United States


  • Cytokines