Research summary – Michal Benjamin

Respiratory viral infections in infancy and school age respiratory outcomes and healthcare costs
Victoria MacBean, Simon B Drysdale, Muska N Yarzi, Janet L Peacock, Gerrard F Rafferty, Anne Greenough
Published in the journal Pediatric Pulmonology, 2018

Prematurely born infants often have lung problems such as chest infections caused by viruses, and therefore this study was set up in order to explore the impact of chest infections in infancy on lung health later in childhood. From prior research, it was thought that children who had viral chest infections during infancy would have worse breathing function when they got to school age and therefore would depend on medical services more than the average child.
A group of children who had participated in a previous study who were born before 36 weeks of pregnancy and had symptomatic chest infections during infancy were called back when aged between 5-7. During their chest infections as babies, these children had had a sample of mucus taken from the back of the nose and mouth which was tested for a variety of viruses.
When measured at 5-7 years old, various aspects of lung function of the children who had experienced viral chest infections were compared to those of the non-affected children. The results of these tests suggested that children who had had respiratory viruses had poorer lung function than healthy children.
These children also had their medical records examined in order to identify any hospital admissions, emergency department visits, hospital outpatient appointments, other contact with medical professionals, GP attendance and all medication prescriptions. Beyond the first year of life the cost of these medical treatments was recorded. The average healthcare costs of the infants who had not had chest infections were compared to those of the infants who had had respiratory viruses. The ‘virus group’ had a significantly higher respiratory health cost (an average of £431 per year) compared to the group of children who did not have chest infections in infancy (an average of £56 per year).
From these results, the researchers suggested that children who experienced chest infections caused by respiratory viruses had higher healthcare costs and poorer lung function. This study did not identify any one virus as being consistently problematic.

This summary was produced by Michal Benjamin, Year 12 student from JFS School, Harrow, as part of our departmental educational outreach programme.

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