Genetic determinant for bronchiolitis virus

A particular allele of the IL-8 gene may be a determining factor for the severity of bronchiolitis among children. Most children are infected by the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) that causes bronchiolitis by the age of two. For most bronchiolitis remains a mild illness but for some it can cause severe breathing problems and may require admission to hospital.

By | November 21, 2000

A particular allele of the IL-8 gene may be a determining factor for the severity of bronchiolitis among children. Most children are infected by the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) that causes bronchiolitis by the age of two. For most bronchiolitis remains a mild illness but for some it can cause severe breathing problems and may require admission to hospital. The walls of airways infected with RSV have high levels of interleukin 8 (IL-8), a neutrophil chemoattractant which causes inflammation.

In research published in the December Thorax (Thorax 2000 55:1023-1027), Jeremy Hull and co-workers at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford, found a single nucleotide polymorphism (allele frequency 0.44) 251 base pairs upstream of the IL-8 transcription start site. The team took DNA swabs from the mouths of 117 families whose children had been admitted to hospital with severe bronchiolitis. They found that the frequency of this allele was significantly increased in infants with bronchiolitis (transmission = 62%; 95% confidence interval 53 to 71; p=0.014) and particularly in those without known risk factors (transmission = 78%; 95% CI 62 to 93; p=0.004).

As a result of examining blood taken from the umbilical cords of 180 normal babies, Hull et al estimate that more than half the UK population carries this genetic variant. They postulate that carriers have about a two times greater risk of developing the disease than non-carriers.

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