Asthma Drug Helps Infant Lung Infection
Fri February 14, 2003 05:38 PM ET
By Alison McCook
NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - New research suggests that a pill normally used to treat asthma and other breathing difficulties may also ease breathing in infants who develop potentially serious lung infections.
All of the children, who were between 3 months and 3 years old, were hospitalized as a result of bronchiolitis, an infection of the lung's small airways. After bronchiolitis, infants are in danger of developing other potentially serious symptoms that resemble asthma.
The researchers discovered that children given the drug montelukast (Singulair) during a four-week period experienced six symptom-free days and nights, while infants who received an inactive, or placebo, treatment, were free of symptoms on only one day and night during the study period. Montelukast-treated infants also had less of a cough during the daytime than others, the authors report in the February issue of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.
Study author Dr. Hans Bisgaard of University Hospital of Copenhagen told Reuters Health that none of the children in the study appeared to have any side effects from the treatment. Despite its apparent benefits, montelukast is currently only approved for people older than 2. Bisgaard said that further research is needed before doctors can prescribe it to infants with bronchiolitis-related breathing problems.
During the study, Bisgaard and his colleagues gave montelukast to half of 130 children who were hospitalized with bronchiolitis as a result of infection with a common virus known as respiratory syncytial virus RSV). For 28 days, the children received either 5-milligram chewable tablets of montelukast once each night or a placebo. In an interview, Bisgaard explained that babies with this type of breathing problem are often treated with inhaled steroids, but not always successfully.
Montelukast differs from other treatments in that it blocks leukotrienes, he noted, which are substances produced by a type of blood cell. Leukotrienes appear to play a role in the lung inflammation that characterizes asthma.
Bisgaard said he is a consultant and member of pediatric advisory boards for a number of pharmaceutical companies, including Merck, the makers of Singulair. He has also received research funding and honoraria for lectures from Merck, along with other drug companies. The current study was funded by the University Hospital of Copenhagen.
SOURCE: American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine 2003;167:379-383