Doctors have been debating for a long time over the question of whether being infected with respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) in early childhood can increase the risk of chronic wheezing or asthma. Many parents and medics believe that there is a link, but there has been scientific evidence on both sides of the debate. Some studies have suggested that children who have RSV are more likely to develop asthma later on, but others have failed to find such a link. However, a new clue has just come to light that may help us to understand why it has been difficult to prove the connection conclusively.
The Role of Friendly Bacteria
Most of us are aware that there are harmless or friendly bacteria living in our digestive systems and other parts of the body. Some of these bacteria live in the airways. A recent study has revealed that the presence of certain types of bacteria in the airway could determine whether early RSV infection lead to later problems such as wheezing and asthma. The researchers looked at more than 100 children who had an infection with RSV. The bacteria in their noses and throats was analysed and the children were tracked for two years. The results revealed that children who had a certain type of Lactobillus bacteria in their airways were less likely to develop wheezing later on.
The results of this study show that understanding the impact of RSV is not as easy as saying that it will always increase the risk of wheezing and asthma. The truth is that it will have different effects on different children, depending on their microbiome. The community of friendly bacteria that live in our bodies may be able to protect us against the effects of early RSV infection on our airways. If your child has had RSV then you should be aware that there may be an increased risk of wheezing or asthma later on, but you shouldn’t feel that this is inevitable.