Touching Lives - February 2008
Fighting chest infections in children
For most children, RSV infection is relatively mild, causing symptoms like a bad cold, often with wheezing and coughing. But a significant minority, mostly babies under six months old, can develop complications leading to pneumonia and sometimes respiratory failure.
While most children do recover, sadly, for the most vulnerable such as premature babies, RSV infection can indeed be life-threatening.There is also a possible association between RSV infection in infancy and subsequent development of asthma. Researchers from Imperial College London, led by Dr Dan Agranoff, are using a cutting-edge technique, called proteomic fingerprinting, to increase our understanding of RSV infection. This technique profiles the many hundreds of proteins circulating in the blood of an infected person and then pulls out a distinctive pattern, a proteomic signature, from among them, which is characteristic of the particular disease. The project, backed by Action Medical Research funding, will provide critical information to help design new diagnostic tests and treatments for babies and children with RSV infections Future studies which build on this work may lead to the development of better diagnostic tests for RSV infection, based on dipsticks, which could be affordable, quick and practical in the clinical environment.These tests could better predict, at an earlier stage, which children are likely to develop more serious disease.
What’s more, researchers believe further studies may lead to new approaches to therapy that could help stop babies with RSV infection from becoming seriously ill, so avoiding the trauma of hospital admissions and saving lives.