, Volume 12, Issue 6, pp 613-620
Date: 22 Aug 2012

Role of Viruses in the Development of Atopic Disease in Pediatric Patients

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Abstract

The prevalence of atopic diseases continues to rise in modernized countries, without a clear explanation for this increase. One potential cause identified from epidemiologic studies of children is respiratory RNA viral infections leading to development of recurrent wheezing, asthma, and allergic sensitization. We review human epidemiologic data that both support and refute the role of viruses in this process. Exploring recent murine models, we document possible immunologic mechanisms that could translate a viral infection into atopic disease. We further discuss evidence for a post-viral “atopic cycle” that could explain the development of multiple allergen sensitization, and we explore available data to suggest a connection between viral infections of the gastrointestinal tract with the development of food allergy. Taken together, this review documents evidence to support the “viral hypothesis”, and, in particular, the role of RNA viruses in the development of atopic disease.