Prenatal and childhood infections: implications for the development and treatment of childhood asthma

Lancet Respir Med. 2013 Nov;1(9):743-54. doi: 10.1016/S2213-2600(13)70145-0. Epub 2013 Sep 3.


Bacterial and viral infections occur early and recurrently in life and thereby impose a substantial disease burden. Besides causing clinical symptoms, a potential role of infection in the development of the asthma syndrome later in life has also been suggested. However, whether bacterial and viral infections unmask host factors in children at risk of asthma or whether they directly cause asthma remains unclear; both viewpoints could be justified, but the underlying mechanisms are complex and poorly understood. Recently, the role of the bacterial microbiome has been emphasised. But data are still sparse and future studies are needed for definitive conclusions to be made. In this Review, we discuss present knowledge of viruses and bacteria that infect and colonise the respiratory tract and mucosal surfaces, including their timepoint of action, host factors related to infection, and their effect on childhood asthma. Childhood asthma could be the result of a combination of altered host susceptibility and infectious agents.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Asthmatic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Asthma / drug therapy*
  • Asthma / etiology*
  • Child
  • Disease Susceptibility*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects*
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / complications*


  • Anti-Asthmatic Agents