The role of rhinovirus in asthma exacerbations.
Rhinoviruses are a major cause of asthma exacerbations in children and adults. With the use of sensitive RT-PCR methods, respiratory viruses are found in approximately 80% of wheezing episodes in children and in approximately one half of such episodes in adults. Rhinovirus is a member of the family Picornaviridae, and acute rhinovirus infections occur predominantly in the upper airway. This virus has also been identified in the lower airway, and it might cause acute wheezing through the production of proinflammatory mediators with a resulting neutrophilic inflammatory response. Precisely how this process leads to increases in airway hyperresponsiveness and airway obstruction is not fully established. However, risk factors for wheezing with colds include asthma and atopy, extremes in age, and perhaps having a deficient TH1 response to rhinovirus. With the use of in vitro models and experimental inoculation studies, significant advances have led to a better understanding of the mechanisms by which rhinovirus infections cause asthma exacerbations. Advances in our understanding of this interaction might provide knowledge that could ultimately lead to specific treatment modalities to prevent and/or treat this significant burden of asthma exacerbations.
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