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An antibiotic, instead of preventing, may raise risk of recurrent wheezing in children

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RSV, or respiratory syncytial virus, causes mild, cold-like symptoms in the majority of people, who recover in a week or two with self-care.

However, it can cause serious illness in some people, such as infants, the elderly, those with heart or lung disease, or with a weakened immune system.

RSV is so frequent that nearly every child contracts it at some point during their early life, usually by the age of two. This infection can cause bronchiolitis in newborns, which necessitates hospitalization.

Antibiotics are frequently given to patients with RSV bronchiolitis, despite the fact that clinical guidelines do not support this practice.

Meanwhile, a new study warns that drugs may not help prevent repeated wheezing in infants admitted to the hospital with RSV, and may possibly be detrimental.

Some chronic lung disorders, such as cystic fibrosis, have been shown to benefit from the antibiotic azithromycin. However, researchers from the Universities of Washington and Vanderbilt reported no difference in the frequency of wheezing in babies given azithromycin vs those given a placebo in a trial.

However, the study found that azithromycin had anti-inflammatory characteristics. The researchers discovered that newborns given the antibiotic had lower levels of IL-8 (an airway inflammation marker) in their noses than those given a placebo.

Surprisingly, they discovered that azithromycin appeared to increase the incidence of wheeze, with 47% of azithromycin-treated individuals suffering recurrent wheezing compared to 36% of placebo-treated patients. During the two to four years of follow up, the researchers defined recurrent wheezing as three episodes of wheezing.

The study’s first author, Avraham Beigelman, an associate professor of paediatrics at the University of Washington School of Medicine, noted that any antibiotic use could increase the chance of recurrent wheezing.

He highlighted that because antibiotics are often administered to infants with RSV bronchiolitis, the new findings must be shared with clinicians.

RSV Symptoms to Be Aware Of

RSV infection signs and symptoms usually show four to six days following introduction to the virus. RSV normally causes mild symptoms that resemble the common cold in healthy adults and older children, such as –

  • Nose congestion or runniness
  • Dry Cough
  • Fever of a low intensity
  • Throat irritation
  • Sneezing
  • Headache

The infection can extend to the lower respiratory system, causing pneumonia or bronchiolitis in severe cases. In this instance, the patient’s condition may develop:

  • Fever
  • Chronic cough
  • Wheezing
  • Breathing problems or rapid breathing
  • Lack of oxygen causes the skin to turn a bluish color (cyanosis)

Short, shallow, and quick breathing, cough, poor eating, unusual tiredness, and irritability are all symptoms of severe RSV infection in newborns.

Some of these signs and symptoms are comparable to COVID-19. Seek medical help right away to get a proper diagnosis and treatment for your illness.

Source: 10.1056/EVIDoa2100069

Image Credit: Getty

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