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Airway Function in Infancy Predicts Obstruction in Adults

Lung changes leading to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease may begin in utero

THURSDAY, Sept. 6 (HealthDay News) -- Poor airway function in infancy is associated with an increased risk of childhood respiratory infections and impaired airflow in young adulthood, according to a report in the Sept. 1 issue of The Lancet.

Debra A. Stern, M.D., of the University of Arizona in Tucson, Ariz., and colleagues investigated the relationship between poor airway function in infancy and the risk of airflow obstruction in young adults. They measured maximal expiratory flows at functional residual capacity (VmaxFRC) in 169 infants (mean age 2.3 months), and conducted follow-up spirometry at ages 11, 16 and 22 years.

Infants with VmaxFRC in the lowest quartile had diminished airflow measures of FEV1/FVC ratio, FEF25-75 and FEV1 values up to age 22, as well as an increased risk of respiratory illness in the first three years of life, compared to infants in the upper three quartiles combined.

"Our results suggest that in utero alterations in airway development predispose individuals both to lower respiratory illnesses and to subsequent deficits in lung function during adult life," the authors write.

"As chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is set globally to become the third most important cause of death, now is the time to add research into its earliest origins to the agenda," according to an accompanying editorial.

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