Enhanced IL-4 responses in children with a history of respiratory syncytial virus bronchiolitis in infancy

P Pala, R Bjarnason, F Sigurbergsson, C Metcalfe, N Sigurs, P J M Openshaw

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

70 Citations (Scopus)


Infants who recover from respiratory syncytial virus (RSV)-induced bronchiolitis are at high risk of developing asthma and recurrent wheezing. It is not known whether severe RSV infection itself causes persistent effects or is a marker of a "wheezy" predisposition. To determine the long-term immunological correlates of infantile bronchiolitis, interleukin (IL)-4 and interferon (IFN)-gamma responses to a panel of antigens were studied in a well-characterised cohort of 7-8-yr-old children with a history of severe RSV bronchiolitis in infancy. Peripheral blood lymphocytes from 37 children who were hospitalised with RSV bronchiolitis in infancy and from 69 age-, sex- and location-matched controls were stimulated in vitro with RSV, house-dust mite, birch and cat antigens. Cellular proliferation, and enzyme-linked immunoSPOT IFN-gamma and IL-4 production were measured. IL-4 producing T-cells responding to RSV and cat antigens were significantly more frequent in exbronchiolitics. Other responses (including the IFN-gamma response to RSV) were equally strong in exbronchiolitics and controls. Respiratory syncytial virus infection primes memory T-cells that make interferon-gamma, but virus and aeroallergen-specific and interleukin-4 producing T-cells are also frequently primed in bronchiolitics. Respiratory syncytial virus bronchiolitis in infancy may increase the risk of allergic sensitisation by providing a local interleukin-4-rich environment, in which airborne allergens are first encountered.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)376-82
Number of pages7
JournalEuropean Respiratory Journal
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2002


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