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Cigarette smoke worsens respiratory infections in infants

Studying Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) to learn what puts children at risk for the most severe infections, Washington University researchers at St. Louis Children's Hospital found that a child's age at the time of infection and whether that child lives with a smoker could mean the difference between the sniffles and the intensive care unit.

RSV infection is common in children but sometimes can be hard for parents to recognize. By two years of age, 95 percent of all children have been exposed to RSV, but the symptoms can range from a mild cold all the way to serious pneumonia, which requires a child to be hospitalized and placed on a ventilator. The Washington University researchers have been trying to learn why some kids have a relatively easy time while others get so very sick.

The research team has been following 206 children since they were hospitalized or treated in the Emergency Department at St. Louis Children's Hospital. The children are part of a project called the RSV Bronchiolitis in Early Life (RBEL) study. The infants all were under 12 months of age when they were enrolled in the RBEL study and had a wide range in the severity of their RSV infection, according to Mario Castro, M.D., associate professor of medicine and pediatrics at Washington University School of Medicine and principal investigator of the RBEL study.

After the children were treated at the hospital and recruited into the study, Castro and colleagues looked at medical records and measured the children's oxygen saturation levels during RSV infection. The lower the oxygen saturation, the more serious the infection. Later, they went to the children's homes and vacuumed up dust and allergens to see whether those products might have played a role in the severity of RSV infections.

Researchers asked the babies' mothers detailed questions about their pregnancies, including whether or not they smoked cigarettes either before or after giving birth. An
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Contact: Jim Dryden
jdryden@wustl.edu
314-286-0110
Washington University School of Medicine
8-Mar-2005


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