An early childhood infection animal model that can cause asthma later in life has been shown by an animal model by scientists from the University of Massachusetts.
The boffins present their data at the 110th General Meeting of the American Society for Microbiology in San Diego.
Asthma is the most common chronic respiratory disease affecting young children all over the world and the number of new pediatric asthma cases has dramatically increased over the last 20 years. Chlamydia infection of the respiratory tract has been identified as a risk factor in asthma development.
The key appears to be an altered immune response in neonatal mice. Patel and colleagues began the study by inducing chlamydial lung infection in newborn neonatal as well as in adult mice and compared the immune response and outcomes. The immune response in the newborns was significantly different from adults and the newborns never cleared the infection, while the adults did.
"When allergic airway disease was induced in this mouse model, infected neonatal mice significantly increased their production of allergic type chemical messengers characteristic of asthma, compared to uninfected neonatal controls and infected adult groups," says Patel.
"Our data indicate that early-life infections with chlamydia may drive aberrant immune responses ultimately causing chronic infection and inducing asthma disease," says Patel. "Early life respiratory colonization with chlamydia elicits pathogen-specific IgE antibody production, which for the first time provides evidence of an infectious asthma phenotype."