Vikas Wadhwa

Interactions between early life allergic sensitisation and respiratory infection in causing asthma

V.Wadhwa photo

Supervisors names: Dr Melissa Russell, Dr Caroline Lodge, Dr Shyamali Dharmage

Early life respiratory tract infections are exceedingly common and in the majority of cases resolve without any specific treatment or sequelae. Severe lower respiratory tract infections of viral aetiology have been implicated as causative in the development of recurrent wheezing, illness and asthma and in some cases atopic disorders. Through the hygiene hypothesis however viral respiratory infections in early childhood have also been considered to be protective in the future development of allergic disease and asthma.

Potentially a viral infection could be considered the initial trigger in creating an pro allergenic environment which may be time sensitive to exposure to appropriate and specific allergens. This may then subsequently lead to the development of airway inflammation and asthma.

There appears to be a lack of clarity as to when and how sensitisation to allergens and viral respiratory infections interact and contribute to an altered, possibly increased risk of asthma. In addition, the number of respiratory infections and virus types most likely to contribute to this effect is unknown.

We hypothesised that early lower respiratory tract viral infections interact with allergic sensitisation and lead to an increased risk of developing asthma and persistent lung function impairment.