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Adult asthma after non-respiratory syncytial virus bronchiolitis in infancy: Subgroup analysis of the 20-year prospective follow-up study


Eija Piippo-Savolainen, Department of Pediatrics, University Hospital, Peltoniementie 34, Lapinlahti FIN-73100, Kuopio, Finland. Email:


Background: Recent studies have stressed the influence of other viruses than respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) in the development of asthma in later childhood after bronchiolitis in infancy. However, the virus-specific prognosis until adulthood has remained obscure, due to lack of sufficiently long follow-up studies. The aim of the present study was to evaluate adult respiratory morbidity after bronchiolitis in infancy, focused on cases not caused by RSV.

Methods: A total of 54 children hospitalized for bronchiolitis at age <2 years were re-studied at median age 19 years; 22 with RSV bronchiolitis and 22 with non-RSV bronchiolitis outside RSV epidemic were included. RSV etiology was studied by antigen and antibody assays on admission. Adult asthma was defined by two ways, based on written questionnaire, clinical examination and home peak expiratory flow monitoring. Lung function was evaluated by flow-volume spirometry (FVS), bronchial reactivity by methacholine inhalation challenge (MIC), and atopy by skin prick tests (SPT).

Results: In the non-RSV group, asthma by two definitions was present in 41–50% (vs 18–27% in RSV group). In logistic regression, adjusted for gender, age on admission, current atopy and smoking, non-RSV etiology of bronchiolitis, compared with RSV etiology, increased asthma risk by both strict (odds ratio [OR], 8.34; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.18–58.69) and less strict (OR, 7.93; 95% CI, 1.14–55.41) criteria. An abnormal result in FVS was present in 32–41% and in MIC in 48–52% of cases in non-RSV and RSV groups, respectively.

Conclusions: Infants with non-RSV bronchiolitis requiring treatment in hospital are at an increased risk for subsequent asthma in adulthood.