Cleveland Clinic Children's Hospital Research Suggests Transmission of Respiratory Viruses from Mother to Child in Utero

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Study Offers New Understanding Of Recurrent Wheezing And Asthma Development In Children

April 18, 2013

The most common cause of lower respiratory tract infections in infants and young children, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), can be transferred during pregnancy to an unborn baby, according to Cleveland Clinic Children’s Hospital research published online this week in the journal PLOS ONE.

In animal models, the study shows that RSV is able to spread across the placenta from the respiratory tract of the mother to the fetus, and is present in the lungs after birth, throughout development and into adulthood. RSV is considered the primary cause of infant pneumonia and has been implicated in the development of asthma.

“Epidemiologic evidence suggests that early-life RSV infection predisposes children to recurrent wheezing and asthma,” said Giovanni Piedimonte, MD, the study’s lead author and Chairman of Cleveland Clinic Children’s Hospital and the Pediatric Institute. “This study challenges the current paradigm that RSV infection is acquired only after birth and shifts attention to prenatal effects of the virus, which may result in more severe and lasting consequences by interfering with an unborn baby’s critical developmental processes.”

Research was completed in an animal model, in which rats were inoculated with RSV during midterm pregnancy. Of those infected, RSV was found in 30 percent of fetuses, as well as in the lungs of 40 percent of newborns and 25 percent of those that reached adulthood.

Dr. Piedimonte has been the principal investigator or co-investigator of more than 30 research projects, and has authored and co-authored more than 250 journal articles, book chapters, monographs, editorials and abstracts. He holds 17 international patents and is frequently invited to speak nationally and internationally.

Text of the complete study can be found online at: http://dx.plos.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0061309.

About Cleveland Clinic Children’s Hospital

Cleveland Clinic Children’s Hospital is a part of the Cleveland Clinic health system and offers full medical, surgical and rehabilitative care for infants, children and adolescents. Cleveland Clinic Children’s supports 429 inpatient beds and 43 outpatient beds; in addition, pediatric services are available at more than 30 locations. A staff of more than 300 pediatric medical and surgical specialists sees more than 650,000 outpatient visits, 17,000 hospital admissions, 10,000 surgeries and more than 1,400 hospital transfers each year. Cleveland Clinic Children’s consistently ranks among the “Best Children’s Hospitals” by U.S.News & World Report. Visit us online at http://www.clevelandclinic.org/childrens and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/clevelandclinicchildrens.

About Cleveland Clinic

Cleveland Clinic is a nonprofit multispecialty academic medical center that integrates clinical and hospital care with research and education. Located in Cleveland, Ohio, it was founded in 1921 by four renowned physicians with a vision of providing outstanding patient care based upon the principles of cooperation, compassion and innovation. Cleveland Clinic has pioneered many medical breakthroughs, including coronary artery bypass surgery and the first face transplant in the United States. U.S.News & World Report consistently names Cleveland Clinic as one of the nation’s best hospitals in its annual “America’s Best Hospitals” survey. More than 3,000 full-time salaried physicians and researchers and 11,000 nurses represent 120 medical specialties and subspecialties. The Cleveland Clinic health system includes a main campus near downtown Cleveland, more than 75 Northern Ohio outpatient locations, including 16 full-service Family Health Centers, Cleveland Clinic Florida, the Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health in Las Vegas, Cleveland Clinic Canada, and, currently under construction, Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi. In 2012, there were 5.1 million outpatient visits throughout the Cleveland Clinic health system and 157,000 hospital admissions. Patients came for treatment from every state and from more than 130 countries. Visit us at http://www.clevelandclinic.org. Follow us at http://www.twitter.com/ClevelandClinic.

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