Bacterial infections can cause asthma attacks, scientists at the Danish Paediatric Asthma Centre (DPAC) at the University of Copenhagen and Gentofte Hospital have discovered.
The discovery could revolutionise treatment.
"We found a significant relationship between bacterial infections and acute asthma attacks - above and beyond the expected relationship between viral infections and attacks," says Hans Bisgaard, a professor of paediatrics at the DPAC.
The study examined 361 children between the ages of four weeks and three years to determine the presence of viral and bacterial infections during severe asthma attacks.
The results conclude that the number of attacks was just as high in children with bacterial respiratory infections as in those with viral infections.
"This indicates that bacteria can exacerbate asthma symptoms even if they aren't infected with a virus," Bisgaard says.
"The findings open up an entirely new method for treating severe asthma attacks. We can't treat viral infections, but scientists will now look into whether treatment with antibiotics can help children when they have an asthma attack if they are also suffering from a bacterial infection.
"Being able to use antibiotics to treat asthma attacks in children would be revolutionary," Bisgaard adds.
The effects of antibiotics in treating asthma attacks will now be examined in large-scale, clinical study by the DPAC.
The research has been published in British Medical Journal on 4 October 2010.