Abstract: Premature children are prone to severe viral respiratory infections in early life, but the age at which susceptibility peaks and disappears for each pathogen is unclear. Methods: A retrospective analysis was performed of the age distribution and clinical features of acute viral respiratory infections in full-term and premature children, aged zero to seven years. Results: The study comprised of a total of 630 hospitalizations (n = 580 children). Sixty-seven percent of these hospitalizations occurred in children born full-term (> 37 weeks), 12% in preterm (32–37 weeks) and 21% in severely premature children (< 32 weeks). The most common viruses identified were rhinovirus (RV; 60%) and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV; 17%). Age-distribution analysis of each virus identified that severely premature children had a higher relative frequency of RV and RSV in their first three years, relative to preterm or full-term children. Additionally, the probability of RV- or RSV-induced wheezing was higher overall in severely premature children less than three years old. Conclusions: Our results indicate that the vulnerability to viral infections in children born severely premature is more specific for RV and RSV and persists during the first three years of age. Further studies are needed to elucidate the age-dependent molecular mechanisms that underlie why premature infants develop RV- and RSV-induced wheezing in early life.

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Published in Children, v. 3, issue 4, 19, p. 1-9.

© 2016 by the authors; licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.

This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY) license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).

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Work supported by Grants NHLBI/HL090020 (K12 Genomics of Lung), NICHC/HD001399 (K12 Child Health Research Career Development Award), UL1TR000075 KL2TR000076 Awards from the NIH National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences.