Link between prematurity and wheezing revealed
April 15, 2008 — Rajesh Kumar, MD, and colleagues at Children's Memorial have identified a potential link between respiratory problems and premature birth. Several previous studies have identified prematurity (less than 37 weeks) as a risk factor for developing asthma later, but the findings have been inconsistent. Kumar's team studied more than 1000 babies born in a Boston hospital as they sought to understand the relationship of prematurity and chorioamnionitis (infection of the mother's placenta tissues and amniotic fluid) with recurrent wheezing in the child's early life. They confirmed that prematurity is associated with recurrent wheezing. Furthermore, they demonstrated that very preterm birth and the presence of chorioamnionitis greatly increased the incidence of wheezing; this finding was even more pronounced in African American children. Like asthma, prematurity and chorioamnionitis disproportionately affect the African American community (Institute of Medicine [IOM] report 2006, www.iom.edu). This comorbid epidemic has, until now, not been evaluated as a contributor to asthma health disparities.
Kumar and colleagues found that neither prematurity nor chorioamnionitis was found to be associated with food allergy or eczema. Further study is warranted to evaluate whether these associations persist as children grow older and whether this translates to an increased risk of asthma.
This study was an editors' choice article in the April 2008 issue of the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. Also contributing to the study were Yunxian Yu MD, PhD, Rachel E. Story MD, MPH, Jacqueline A. Pongracic MD, Ruchi Gupta MD, Colleen Pearson BA, Kathryn Ortiz BA, Howard C. Bauchner MD and Xiaobin Wang MD, MPH, ScD (Division of Allergy, Children's Memorial; Mary Ann and J. Milburn Smith Child Health Research Program, Children's Memorial Research Center; and Department of Pediatrics, Boston University School of Medicine and Boston Medical Center).
Kumar is assistant professor of Pediatrics at the Feinberg School, an attending physician in the Division of Allergy at Children’s Memorial, and a member of the Human Molecular Genetics Program and the Smith Child Health Research Program at the research center. The parent study was supported in part by the March of Dimes, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. The follow-up study was supported in part by the Food Allergy Project, Inc.