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Preterm Infants at Higher Risk of Asthma

Association based on meta-analysis of published studies

FRIDAY, Oct. 27 (HealthDay News) -- A meta-analysis of published studies suggests that infants born prematurely are at higher risk than full-term infants of developing asthma later in life, according to a study in the October issue of the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

Jouni J.K. Jaakkola, M.D., D.Sc., Ph.D., and colleagues from the University of Birmingham in the U.K., searched Medline through May 2005 and performed a meta-analysis of the 19 studies they found that examined preterm delivery (gestational age of less than 37 weeks) and a child's risk of asthma.

Preterm delivery was associated with a fixed-effects odds ratio for asthma of 1.074 and a random-effects odds ratio of 1.366, the researchers found. They note that there was substantial heterogeneity between studies, although adjusted metaregression showed that only the mean age of the study population was significantly associated with the effect estimate.

"The weight of evidence shows that preterm babies have an increased risk of asthma compared with term babies," Jaakkola and colleagues conclude. "Recognition of prematurity as a determinant of asthma emphasizes the importance of active treatment of physiologic airflow obstruction and a need for special preventive measures against known environmental determinants of asthma in preterm babies."

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