Asthma Drug Soothes RSV-Related Cough
Singulair May Help Babies With Common Lung Condition Breathe Easier
WebMD News Archive
Feb. 14, 2003 -- A drug used to treat asthma may also calm the
wheezing and coughing associated with a lung condition common among babies
known as respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). New research shows Singulair
(montelukast) eased symptoms and helped infants recover from some of the
lingering lung and other breathing problems that frequently follow RSV.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), RSV is
the most common cause of lower respiratory tract infections in children and is
the leading cause of hospitalization for babies under 1 year old. More than
125,000 infants with RSV are hospitalized each year and about 2% die.
Babies become infected with RSV by the time they reach age 2.
In most healthy infants, the virus causes only cold-like symptoms such as
cough, fever, and runny nose. But in certain, high-risk infants, such as those
born prematurely or with lung disease, RSV can cause serious complications and
Researchers say many infants who are hospitalized with RSV
continue to suffer from wheeze and other asthma-like symptoms long after they
"We don't know if these symptoms are actually due to the
RSV, asthma, or something else in these children," researcher Hans
Bisgaard, MD, professor of pediatrics at Copenhagen University Hospital tells
Some studies have suggested that babies who suffer from
post-RSV wheeze and cough are more likely to develop asthma later in childhood,
but that link isn't clear.
But researchers do know that during serious RSV cases infants
release substances known as leukotrienes in the lungs, which are thought to
contribute to the dangerous inflammation that occurs.
"This drug [Singulair] blocks leukotrienes," says
Bisgaard. "And since we know leukotrienes are one of the mediators of
post-RSV wheeze, we decided to target them. Just like taking an antihistamine
for hay fever blocks the mediator that causes those symptoms."
Researchers compared the effects of daily treatment with a 5 mg
chewable tablet of Singulair with placebo in 116 infants who were hospitalized
for RSV. The treatment began within seven days after the start of RSV symptoms
and lasted for 28 days.