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Rhinovirus and the initiation of asthma.

PURPOSE OF REVIEW: Virus-induced wheezing in infancy is a risk factor for asthma, and recent studies have highlighted the role of rhinoviruses in causing acute illnesses and as a possible contributing factor to chronic asthma.

RECENT FINDINGS: Human rhinoviruses (HRVs) have long been known as the most common cause of common cold in infants and children. Recent developments in molecular diagnostics have led to the discovery of new viruses and have also provided data to implicate HRV as an important cause of lower respiratory infections and acute virus-induced wheezing in preschool children. In addition, HRV-induced wheezing episodes appear to identify children who are at increased risk for the subsequent development of childhood asthma.

SUMMARY: Collectively, these findings raise the possibility that lower respiratory infections with pathogens such as HRV and respiratory syncytial virus could participate in the causation of asthma, especially in children with suboptimal antiviral defenses. A variety of experimental models and clinical studies have been used to identify possible mechanisms related to the infection and the ensuing host response that could disturb normal lung and immunologic development to promote asthma. Defining these relationships could lead to new therapeutic and preventive approaches to common forms of childhood asthma.

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