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Eur Respir J. 2002 Mar;19(3):538-45.

Interactions between respiratory tract infections and atopy in the aetiology of asthma.

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  • 1TVW Telethon Institute for Child Health Research, Centre for Child Health Research, The University of Western Australia, Perth, Australia.


The prevalence of asthma, in particular atopic asthma, has markedly increased in recent years. Accumulating evidence suggests that environmental factors associated with allergic sensitization and exposure to microbial stimuli during infancy and early childhood, are associated with these changes in prevalence. However, considerable controversy surrounds the role of microbial agents, as evidence has been presented for both positive and negative effects in this context. The review below focuses upon interactions between immune competence during infancy, the development of T-helper (Th)1-polarized versus Th2-polarized memory against inhalant allergens, and susceptibility to virus infection. In particular, recent finding are highlighted which suggest that delayed postnatal maturation of Th1 function is associated with increased risk for early postnatal sensitization to inhalant allergens, and also with risk for viral bronchiolitis during infancy. Variations in the kinetics of postnatal maturation of T-helper 1 function may in part be attributable to polymorphisms in the CD14 gene, which influence host responsiveness both to bacterial as well as viral stimuli.

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