SYDNEY, June 21 (Xinhua) -- An Aussie research released on Tuesday showed bronchitis in early childhood could increase the risk of lung diseases in middle age.
The research, published in the BMJ Open Respiratory Research, was led by Australia's University of Melbourne (UoM). It is claimed to be the first very long-term prospective study that has examined the relationship between childhood bronchitis severity and adult lung health outcomes.
The study followed 3,202 participants who were born in the state of Tasmania in 1961 for an average of 46 years. Among them, almost half had one or more episodes of childhood bronchitis, classified according to severity as "non-recurrent bronchitis", "recurrent non-protracted bronchitis" and "recurrent-protracted bronchitis."
Participants were also categorized into groups, based on the number and duration of episodes of bronchitis and any continuous symptoms when they grow up. Researchers found that the more often a participant had been diagnosed by a doctor as having pneumonia and asthma, the more likely the participant had bronchitis as a child.
"We have seen that children with protracted bacterial bronchitis are at increased risk of serious chronic infective lung disease after two to five years, so studies like ours are documenting the potential for symptomatic children to develop lung conditions, such as asthma and lung function changes, up to mid-adult life," said lead author of the paper, Dr. Jennifer Perret from UoM.
Perret said the numbers in the most severe subgroup "recurrent-protracted bronchitis" were small -- just 42 participants were in this category and of these just 14 had current asthma in middle age -- but the trends across bronchitis severity categories were significant.
Researchers also established that the lung diseases the children suffered from by the time they reached the age of 53 were usually asthma and pneumonia, rather than chronic bronchitis or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Researchers hope the study will help doctors identify children who could benefit from more careful monitoring and earlier interventions to keep them in better health into mid-adult life.