Rhinoviruses Frequently Cause ARIs in VLBW Premature Infants

55 percent of VLBW infants with acute respiratory illness have human rhinovirus infections

WEDNESDAY, Dec. 28 (HealthDay News) -- More than half (55 percent) of very low birth weight (VLBW) infants with acute respiratory illness (ARI) have infection with human rhinoviruses (HRVs), according to a study published online Dec. 26 in Pediatrics.

E. Kathryn Miller, M.D., M.P.H., of Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn., and colleagues prospectively assessed the incidence, burden of illness, and risk factors for HRV infection in a group of 119 VLBW infants, defined as a birth weight of <1,500 g. Nasal secretions were analyzed for HRV; respiratory syncytial virus (RSV); human metapneumovirus; human parainfluenza viruses 1, 2, and 3; and influenza virus.

HRVs caused ARIs in 55 percent of infants, and were identified as the pathogen in 40 percent of infants with bronchiolitis and 33 percent of hospitalizations. The researchers found that, in VLBW infants in the first year of life, HRV appeared to be a more frequent cause of severe respiratory infections than RSV, which was responsible for bronchiolitis in 7 percent of infants and 25 percent of hospitalizations. Infants who experienced HRV-associated hospitalization were more likely to have bronchopulmonary dysplasia and less likely to be breastfed than infants who did not experience HRV-associated hospitalization.

"Furthermore, because certain interventions can reduce relapses of HRV-associated wheezing in young infants and HRV-mediated wheezing during the first three years of life is a significant risk factor for childhood asthma, this study should foster initiatives for the development of specific therapies, promote stringent enforcement of infection control recommendations in neonatal intensive care units, and contribute to risk stratification in a vulnerable population," the authors write.

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