Just A Cough? | Action Medical Research

Just A Cough?

10 October 2002
{bold}Embargoed until 00:01hrs Friday October 11th 2002{/bold} Have you ever heard of the life-threatening condition bronchiolitis, and do you understand what it is? The chances are you will not. The condition is a severe lung disease which primarily affects babies and children, and is the most common single cause of infantile hospital admissions in the UK. Yet according to a MORI poll commissioned by leading medical charity Action Research, most people are unaware of the illness. Revealed to coincide with a new campaign launch, the results found that 62% of people have never heard of bronchiolitis. Only 4% of people who were aware of it correctly defined it as a disease that affects babies and children. And one in ten confused it with the better-known lung infection, bronchitis. Simon Moore, chief executive of Action Research, a charity which is pioneering research into fighting the disease, says: ‘Each year in the UK alone, bronchiolitis results in the hospitalisation of some 20,000 infants under one year old, and it’s a serious illness these babies could do without. ‘As a seasonal disease, most cases peak between November and March. With this period imminent, Action Research has launched an awareness campaign to raise its profile, and announced a new research study designed to help give these babies a better start in life.’ Bronchiolitis is a respiratory disease in which the lower airways in the lungs become inflamed and swollen. Most cases are caused by an infection with Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV), a highly contagious virus that causes cold-like symptoms and will have infected almost all children by the time they reach the age of two. The majority of cases are harmless and cause only mild symptoms in affected youngsters. But it can to lead life-threatening chest complications in others, and the reasons for this diversity are not understood. About a third of infants infected with RSV go on to develop bronchiolitis, which infects the bronchioles (the tiny air passages deep in the lungs), giving rise to breathing difficulties. The influx of cases during the epidemic months causes a significant burden on hospital paediatric resources every year. Alder Hey Children’s Hospitals in Liverpool, for example, typically receives admissions of between 300 and 400 infants to its Accident & Emergency department every year, some of which require ventilation. To help raise awareness about the condition, Action Research is hosting a special press call today (Friday October 11th) at one of the UK’s leading children’s hospital, Alder Hey. Liverpool-born television presenter Esther McVey will be helping launch a new free factsheet, and to hear more about the excellent efforts of researchers dedicated to the cause. Professor Rosalind Smyth, Professor of Paediatric Medicine for the Department of Child Health, is leading a team at the University of Liverpool to further improve our understanding of the illness. The two-year research study, which is the biggest of its kind in the world, is proving so successful that Action Research has agreed to pump an extra £50,000 for a further year (2002-2003). This brings the charity’s total commitment to the project to more than £140,000. Professor Smyth, who is based at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital and is internationally renowned in her field, says: ‘Every Winter, without fail, there is a huge cohort of babies with bronchiolitis being cared for on ICU. But there is much that we don’t know about RSV infection, not least why it causes life-threatening chest infections in some infants but trivial symptoms in others. ‘We know that some babies are susceptible to developing bronchiolitis, such as pre-term infants and those with underlying diseases such as congenital heart problems. But why should well-nourished, vigorous and healthy babies develop it?’ The team, which includes the paediatric research fellow Dr Paul McNamara, has been trying to examine how the human body responds to RSV, and has been examining fluid taken from the lungs of babies critically ill with bronchiolitis as part of their routine care in ICU. Studies so far have discovered that babies born full-term display greater inflammation in the lungs than premature babies, in a way that suggests there are different disease processes. In particular, the team has found that the inflammation in full-term babies has striking similarities to that seen in older people with asthma. This might help to explain the link between RSV bronchiolitis and wheezing in later childhood. Professor Smyth adds: ‘These intriguing results have identified important patterns of inflammation which the team now wish to further investigate, thanks to the additional funding by Action Research. As our understanding of RSV bronchiolitis develops, so does the likelihood of new treatments and an all-important RSV vaccine. ‘The development of such a vaccine, that is given to babies soon after birth, or even to mothers during pregnancy, offers the best practical solution to protecting these vulnerable infants.’ For a copy of the new information factsheet, free to members of the public, please send a self addressed envelope to Bronchiolitis factsheet, Action Research, Vincent House, North Parade, Horsham, West Sussex, RH12 2DP. Alternatively, download a copy from {url}www.action.org.uk/downloads/Bronchiolitis.pdf{/url} For further information and interviews please contact Nicole Duckworth or Vicki Rayment in the Action Research press office on 01403 327403/404 Fax: 01403 210541, or email nduckworth@action.org.uk ISDN facilities are available Fact-file: *About 2-3% of babies infected with RSV are admitted to hospital with bronchiolitis; Of these 2-3% will need intensive care treatment; about one in ten of these critically ill infants will sadly die *During the epidemic season of RSV it is not uncommon for about half of Alder Hey’s ICU beds to be taken by infants with bronchiolitis *The Alder Hey research team is looking at the largest cohort of bronchiolitis patients in the world *According to the MORI poll, more than half of parents (54 per cent) have never heard of bronchiolitis *MORI Social Research Institute interviewed a representative quota sample of 2,065 adults aged 15 and over. Interviews were conducted face-to-face in homes across Great Britain in 191 constituency-based sampling points. Interviews were carried out between July 25-30 2002. Data have been weighted to the national profile. For further information please contact Michele Corrado or Claire O’Dell at MORI on 0207 347 3000. *Esther McVey has hosted a collection of TV shows including BBC1’s How Do They Do That?, the Heaven and Earth Show, Channel 5’s Stark Naked and GMTV.
Help us spread the word