MAR 15, 2016 12:05 PM PDT

Protecting Babies From Serious Lung Infections

WRITTEN BY: Kara Marker
For healthy adults and older children, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is not a serious issue, but the infection can be life-threatening for infants and young children. New human and mouse studies have identified a naturally-produced compound that fights RSV, and now scientists are looking for ways to naturally boost its production.
                        
RSV is common and usually just produces cold-like symptoms. However for infants and young children at a heightened risk for RSV, those regularly attending daycare, experiencing second-hand smoke, have school-aged siblings, or endure crowded living situations, RSV infection can become quite severe (Medline Plus). There are several symptoms that accompany a serious RSV infection:
  • Cyanosis
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Nasal flaring
  • Wheezing
When severe RSV infections cause hospital visits, treatment can consist of oxygen, humidified air, IV fluids, and ventilation.
 
RSV Structure

 
In their study of mice and healthy adults published in the Journal of Immunology, University of Edinburgh scientists at the MRC Centre for Inflammation Research pinpointed a naturally-produced compound called cathelicidin as having a large role in the immune attack against RSV. During their study, mice unable to produce cathelicidin like normal were more susceptible to RSV infection. However, when simultaneously treated with cathelicidin during their RSV infection, their bodies were able to fight off the infection like normal mice.
 
Humans, too, had a clear connection to cathelicidin. Healthy adults who produced lower levels of cathelicidin, for unknown reasons so far, were more susceptible to RSV, like the mice who could not produce the compound at all. Based on these findings, scientists are hoping to find ways to “encourage” the immune system to produce more cathelicidin, especially for high-risk groups of infants and young children.
 
Cathelicidin works by directly attacking RSV particles, preventing them from attaching to and penetrating host cells. Cathelicidin could also be a new therapy for RSV, and scientists are especially looking for natural ways to boost compound production.
 
Enhancing the treatment arsenal for RSV is certainly beneficial for infants and young children, but it is also valuable for elderly people who, like infants, constitute a population especially vulnerable to life-threatening versions of the disease.
 
“Boosting the body's natural defenses could be a useful therapeutic approach to stop RSV infection from turning into a life-threatening infection in babies and vulnerable adults,” said Dr. Donald Davidson.
 
Davidson and other Edinburgh scientists are asking this question next: why do people differ in the amount of cathelicidin they produce?
 
 
Source: University of Edinburgh
 
About the Author
  • I am a scientific journalist and enthusiast, especially in the realm of biomedicine. I am passionate about conveying the truth in scientific phenomena and subsequently improving health and public awareness. Sometimes scientific research needs a translator to effectively communicate the scientific jargon present in significant findings. I plan to be that translating communicator, and I hope to decrease the spread of misrepresented scientific phenomena! Check out my science blog: ScienceKara.com.
You May Also Like
SEP 29, 2020
Cardiology
Improving Acute Myocardial Ischemia Treatment with Nitro Fatty Acids
SEP 29, 2020
Improving Acute Myocardial Ischemia Treatment with Nitro Fatty Acids
Acute myocardial ischemia occurs when blood flow is restricted in the heart. This usually leads to cardiovascular issues ...
SEP 28, 2020
Genetics & Genomics
Why Some Young, Healthy People Get Severe COVID-19
SEP 28, 2020
Why Some Young, Healthy People Get Severe COVID-19
Since the start of the pandemic, scientists have been trying to find out why some people get such severe illness from SA ...
SEP 28, 2020
Health & Medicine
More Evidence That Cannabis Can Help Migraines
SEP 28, 2020
More Evidence That Cannabis Can Help Migraines
If you suffer with migraines you’ll do almost anything to relieve the agony when one strikes. For many people, tha ...
OCT 14, 2020
Cancer
Using Plasma Scalpels with Chemotherapy Against Brain Cancer
OCT 14, 2020
Using Plasma Scalpels with Chemotherapy Against Brain Cancer
Cold atmospheric plasma is a relatively new technique that utilizes a tool that generates a sort of plasma scalpel, exce ...
OCT 15, 2020
Health & Medicine
An Estimated 38 Million People were Exposed to Polluted Wildfire Smoke
OCT 15, 2020
An Estimated 38 Million People were Exposed to Polluted Wildfire Smoke
As wildfires continue to burn record-breaking acreages along the west coast of the United States and inland regions, hos ...
OCT 22, 2020
Neuroscience
Placebos Impact Brain Patterns for Emotional Processing
OCT 22, 2020
Placebos Impact Brain Patterns for Emotional Processing
Researchers from Michigan State University have found that placebos reduce markers of emotional distress- even when the ...
Loading Comments...