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Research News at Vanderbilt

Team to study RSV’s role in asthma formation

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The team investigating RSV’s role in the initiation of asthma includes, from left, Emory University’s Marty Moore, M.D., VUMC’s Tina Hartert, M.D., Emory’s Larry Anderson, M.D., and VUMC’s Stokes Peebles, M.D. (photo by Jack Kearse)

The team investigating RSV’s role in the initiation of asthma includes, from left, Emory University’s Marty Moore, M.D., VUMC’s Tina Hartert, M.D., Emory’s Larry Anderson, M.D., and VUMC’s Stokes Peebles, M.D. (photo by Jack Kearse)

Investigators in the Division of Allergy, Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine recently received a $4.5 million Asthma and Allergic Diseases Cooperative Research Center (AADCRC) grant from the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID).

The award will be used for research at Vanderbilt and Emory University to investigate how respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is involved in the initiation of asthma. Vanderbilt was one of only six centers nationally to be recognized by the NIAID.

“This award puts Vanderbilt University Medical Center on the map as one of the leaders in the field of (asthma) research,” said Stokes Peebles, M.D., Elizabeth and John Murray Professor of Medicine and the grant’s principal investigator. “We’ve been granted one of the top awards and can be seen as one of the top centers in asthma and allergy research.”

RSV is the most important cause of bronchiolitis in infancy. Severe infection is the No. 1 cause of hospital admissions in children under 1 year old in the United States.

Epidemiologic studies have linked severe early life RSV infection to the development of asthma later in childhood, but the mechanisms are not clear, and this mechanistic understanding is the overall goal of this project, Peebles said.

Tina Hartert, M.D., Lulu H. Owen Professor of Medicine, is the leader of Project 1 and will examine the effect of early life RSV infection on the development of asthma later in childhood.

Hartert and her team recruited 1,950 Middle Tennessee infants in the first funding cycle (2011-2016) and will follow these infants for several years.

In the new funding cycle, which will run from 2016-2021, Hartert will work with Larry Anderson, M.D., at Emory University to characterize human innate immune responses to RSV, and with Suman Das, M.D., at the J. Craig Venter Institute, who will analyze RSV viral sequencing and the respiratory microbiome.

“We are very grateful for the collaboration and to those who made contributions to this project,” Peebles said.

Peebles will lead Project 2. Marty Moore, M.D., and Stacey Human, M.D., at Emory University will be important collaborators.

The second project will focus on the role of a specific RSV genotype on the development of host immune responses to RSV, which have been associated with severe RSV illness in infancy and may predispose children to the development of asthma.

“We will be working to determine if severe RSV infection indeed does result in the development of asthma, and for the first time determine if less severe RSV infection in infancy actually protects against the development of asthma later in childhood,” Peebles said.

Media Inquiries:
Tavia Smith, (615) 322-4747
tavia.smith@vanderbilt.edu