Preventing Wheezing in Little Ones

Palivizumab to prevent RSV and wheezing in preemies appears effective

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Babies born earlier than their due dates can often be at higher risk for certain diseases. With a usually weaker immune system, they may benefit from protective measures.

A recent study found that giving preemies a specific medication appeared to reduce their risk of catching a respiratory bug.

The illness studied was respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV. The medication the children were given ahead of time was palivizumab. The brand name is Synagis.

Palivizumab is already used for preemies who have RSV to reduce the likelihood that they will need to be hospitalized.

Children who catch RSV often go on to develop repeated wheezing.

Preemies who received the medication were less likely to wheeze as toddlers.

"Ask your pediatrician about specialized preemie care."

The study, led by Shigemi Yoshihara, MD, of the Department of Pediatrics at Dokkyo Medical University in Japan, tested whether giving preemies a certain medication prevented them from catching RSV.

The researchers tracked the cases of 444 babies born early throughout 52 hospitals in Japan.

The babies had all been born between 33 and 35 weeks of pregnancy, and they were followed for three years.

Among these children, 349 were given palivizumab within their first six months. The other 95 children did not receive the medication.

The researchers wanted to see how many children developed repeated wheezing during their first three years of life.

Repeated wheezing is a symptom children are more likely to develop if they have had RSV.

Among the children who were given the medication for preventive purposes, 6.4 percent developed repeated wheezing.

Among the children who did not receive the palivizumab, 18.9 percent developed repeated wheezing during the course of the study.

All the cases of wheezing were reported by parents after they had been told the diagnosis by the child's doctor.

The researchers concluded that providing preemies with palivizumab in their early months reduced their risk of developing wheezing in their first three years.

The study was published October 14 in the journal Pediatrics. The research was funded by Abbott Japan Co. Ltd. with no input from the funders.

Four of the six authors have received speaking fees from Abbott Japan Co. and funding from DeepImpact Co. Ltd. (who received funding from Abbott Japan) for attending a meeting sponsored by that company. 

A separate author has received speaking fees from Abbott Laboratories and Medimmune, and his institution has received research funding from both.

The sixth author reported no financial connections relevant to the study.

Review Date: 
October 13, 2013
Last Updated:
October 14, 2013