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Infant vulnerability to major respiratory disease highlights need to improve vaccination

(Xinhua)    14:25, December 05, 2018

SYDNEY, Dec. 5 (Xinhua) -- Infants who contract a severe respiratory viral disease after the age of six months are twice more likely to develop severe asthma in later years than babies who get the condition prior to six months, highlighting the need to improve vaccination against it, according to a latest Australian research.

Severe respiratory syncytial viral (RSV) disease is the leading cause of lower respiratory tract infections like bronchiolitis in infants, requiring hospitalization in serious cases, while its early stages form a strong predictor of childhood asthma, the University of New South Wales said in a statement on Wednesday.

Researchers looked at more than 18,000 children with the disease who were hospitalized in their first two years of life between 2001 and 2010 and found that 60 percent of all admissions were for infants aged six months or younger.

Of the 40 percent of children who were hospitalized after the age of six months, more of them returned to hospital with severe asthma in later years than the cohort of infants who contracted RSV in their first six months of life, according to the researchers.

"So what our analysis showed is that even though you get more RSV in the first six months of life, if you get severe RSV after six months of age, the rate of subsequent asthma is actually higher in those children," said the study's lead author Dr Nusrat Homaira.

The findings highlight the importance of improving children's immunity against the disease beyond the one given to women during their third trimester to boost maternal antibodies, said the researchers. Their work was reported in the Journal of Infectious Diseases academic publication.

"While the maternal vaccine is extremely important for our children, we also need an active vaccination strategy or an active vaccine candidate that is going to protect children in the first two years of life," said Homaira.

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