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Link between measles and airflow obstruction

Childhood measles can affect post-bronchodilator airflow obstruction in later life

Childhood measles can affect post-bronchodilator airflow obstruction in later life

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Contracting measles during early childhood increases the risk of post-bronchodilator airflow obstruction for middle-aged adults if they smoke and have adult asthma, a study has found.

Carried out in Tasmania, Australia, 8,583 students underwent a spirometry in 1968 before immunisation against measles was introduced.

A history of childhood measles was sourced from school medical records. A total of 69% of participants had measles.

Between 2002-2005 there was a follow up with 5,729 responses.

The sample consisted of 67% having asthma and/or wheezing breathing. Over half were ever-smokers, of those 59% had smoked at least 10 pack-years.

Of the asthma-smoking-measles subgroup, 40% had coexistent post-bronchodilator airflow obstruction.

When the study looked at an asthma-only sub-cohort with measles as a child the prevalence of post-bronchodilator airflow obstruction was significantly less. The study did not find measles to have an effect on its own.

The authors of the study have recognised that it was not possible to confirm cases of childhood measles by serological testing. The study also didn’t factor in other infections that could have contributed to post-bronchodilator airflow obstruction, such as respiratory syncytial virus.

The authors also recognised that the cohort were mainly of European descent and this therefore may prevent the findings from being generalised to non-Caucasian populations.

Perret J, Matheson M, Gurrin L et al (2018) Childhood measles contributes to post‐bronchodilator airflow obstruction in middle‐aged adults: A cohort study. Respirology. doi: 10.1111/resp.13297

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