Doctors have long known that viral infections can bring about asthma attacks and the shortness of breath, coughing, and wheezing associated with them. But while viral infections cannot be treated, scientists at the Danish Paediatric Asthma Centre (DPAC) at the University of Copenhagen and Gentofte Hospital have discovered that treatable bacterial infections can also cause asthma attacks. The discovery could revolutionize treatment.
"We found a significant relationship between bacterial infections and acute asthma attacks -- above and beyond the expected relationship between viral infections and attacks," says Hans Bisgaard, a professor of pediatrics at the DPAC.
The study examined 361 children between the ages of four weeks and three years to determine the presence of viral and bacterial infections during severe asthma attacks. The results conclude that the number of attacks was just as high in children with bacterial respiratory infections as in those with viral infections.
Using antibiotics to treat asthma attacks?
"This indicates that bacteria can exacerbate asthma symptoms even if they aren't infected with a virus," Professor Bisgaard says. "The findings open up an entirely new method for treating severe asthma attacks. We can't treat viral infections, but scientists will now look into whether treatment with antibiotics can help children when they have an asthma attack if they are also suffering from a bacterial infection."
"Being able to use antibiotics to treat asthma attacks in children would be revolutionary," Professor Bisgaard says.
The effects of antibiotics in treating asthma attacks will now be examined in large-scale, clinical study by the DPAC.
The research has been published in British Medical Journal on 4 October 2010.
- H. Bisgaard, M. N. Hermansen, K. Bonnelykke, J. Stokholm, F. Baty, N. L. Skytt, J. Aniscenko, T. Kebadze, S. L. Johnston. Association of bacteria and viruses with wheezy episodes in young children: prospective birth cohort study. BMJ, 2010; 341 (oct04 1): c4978 DOI: 10.1136/bmj.c4978
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