Rhinovirus in the Pathogenesis and Clinical Course of Asthma

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In healthy individuals, human rhinovirus (HRV) infections are the major cause of the common cold. These are generally uncomplicated infections except for occasional cases of otitis media or sinusitis. In individuals with asthma, however, HRV infections can have a major impact on disease development and progression. HRV-induced wheezing illnesses in early life are a significant risk factor for subsequent development of asthma, and growing evidence supports a role of recurrent HRV infections in the development and progression of several aspects of airway remodeling in asthma. In addition, HRV infections are one of the most common triggers for acute exacerbations of asthma, which represent a major burden to health-care systems around the world. None of the currently prescribed medications for asthma are effective in preventing or reversing asthma development and airway remodeling or are ideal for treating HRV-induced exacerbations of asthma. Thus, a better understanding of the role of HRV in asthma is important if we are to develop more effective therapies. In the past decade, we have gained new insights into the role of HRV infections in the development and progression of airway remodeling as well as a new appreciation for the proinflammatory and host defense responses to HRV infections that may help to regulate susceptibility to asthma exacerbations. This article reviews the current understanding of the role HRV infections play in the pathogenesis of asthma and identifies possible avenues to new therapeutic strategies for limiting the effects of HRV infections in asthma.

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