Washington, Oct 22 : American scientists have found that a common lung infection virus, which generally comes and goes without causing any long lasting impact on children, may actually hide in the lungs and trigger asthmatic symptoms.
Researchers at the UT Southwestern Medical Centre studied a mouse model, and found that respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) may hide in the lungs even after other symptoms fade away, and ultimately return to cause recurrent wheezing and chronic airway disease.
"This research suggests that there's a potential new mechanism for asthma related to viral infections in children that could be associated with RSV," said Dr. Asuncion Mejias, assistant professor of pediatrics at UT Southwestern and senior author of a study
"These findings could aid in the development of preventive and therapeutic interventions for children with recurrent wheezing due to a virus such as RSV."
The new findings contradict the popular notion that viruses like RSV are easily destroyed.
"Whether RSV persists in children remains to be seen, but the fact that the virus persists in mice is amazingly powerful," said Dr. Octavio Ramilo, professor of pediatrics at UT Southwestern and study co-author.
Previous research led by Drs. Mejias and Ramilo had also shown that RSV infection could increase the risk of developing asthma.
They monitored mice infected with RSV, and found that infected mice were more likely to develop chronic lung disease than healthy mice.
The researchers also found that infected mice treated with an anti-RSV antibody had less virus in the lungs and not only showed improvement during the acute disease, but also developed significantly less airway hyperreactivity and lung inflammation during the chronic phase of the disease.
"If you use an antibody against RSV, you not only prevent acute disease from the infection but you can also prevent the development of the asthma phenotype, indicating that early interventions against the virus can have a long-term benefit," said Mejias.
The study appears in Journal of Infectious Diseases.