Objectives: Human rhinoviruses (HRVs) have been suggested to play a role in the development of childhood wheezing. However, whether HRV is causally related to the development of wheezing or HRV-associated wheeze is merely an indicator of disease susceptibility is unclear. Our aim was to study the role of HRV during infancy in the development of lower respiratory disease during infancy and childhood.
Methods: In a population-based birth cohort, during the 1st year of life, nose and throat swabs were collected on a monthly basis, regardless of any symptoms. Polymerase chain reaction was used to detect an extensive panel of respiratory pathogens. Lung function was measured before 2 months of age. Information on respiratory symptoms was collected by daily questionnaires and electronic patient files.
Results: 1425 samples were collected in 140 infants. Both the presence of (single or multiple) pathogens (HRV equal to other pathogens) and increased respiratory system resistance were significantly associated with lower respiratory symptoms during infancy. HRV presence during infancy was not associated with the risk of wheezing at age 4, but every HRV episode with wheezing increased the risk of wheezing at age 4 (odds ratio 1.9, 1.1-3.5). This association weakened after adjustment for lung function (odds ratio 1.4, 0.7-2.9).
Conclusions: HRV and other viruses are associated with lower respiratory symptoms during infancy, as well as a high presymptomatic respiratory system resistance. HRV presence during infancy is not associated with childhood wheezing, but wheeze during a HRV episode is an indicator of children at high risk for childhood wheeze, partly because of a reduced neonatal lung function.