Role of viruses in asthma

Tuomas Jartti, Klaus Bønnelykke, Varpu Elenius, Wojciech Feleszko


Respiratory viral infections are the most important triggers of asthma exacerbations. Rhinovirus (RV), the common cold virus, is clearly the most prevalent pathogen constantly circulating in the community. This virus also stands out from other viral factors due to its large diversity (about 170 genotypes), very effective replication, a tendency to create Th2-biased inflammatory environment and association with specific risk genes in people predisposed to asthma development (CDHR3). Decreased interferon responses, disrupted airway epithelial barrier, environmental exposures (including biased airway microbiome), and nutritional deficiencies (low in vitamin D and fish oil) increase risk to RV and other virus infections. It is intensively debated whether viral illnesses actually cause asthma. Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is the leading causative agent of bronchiolitis, whereas RV starts to dominate after 1 year of age. Breathing difficulty induced by either of these viruses is associated with later asthma, but the risk is higher for those who suffer from severe RV-induced wheezing. The asthma development associated with these viruses has unique mechanisms, but in general, RV is a risk factor for later atopic asthma, whereas RSV is more likely associated with later non-atopic asthma. Treatments that inhibit inflammation (corticosteroids, omalizumab) effectively decrease RV-induced wheezing and asthma exacerbations. The anti-RSV monoclonal antibody, palivizumab, decreases the risk of severe RSV illness and subsequent recurrent wheeze. A better understanding of personal and environmental risk factors and inflammatory mechanisms leading to asthma is crucial in developing new strategies for the prevention and treatment of asthma.

TidsskriftSeminars in Immunopathology
Udgave nummer1
Sider (fra-til)61-74
Antal sider14
StatusUdgivet - feb. 2020


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