(HealthDay News) — Preterm birth, especially very preterm birth, is associated with an increased risk of childhood wheezing disorders, according to a study published online January 28 in PLOS Medicine.

Jasper V. Been, MD, PhD, from the Maastricht University Medical Center in the Netherlands, and colleagues conducted a systematic review of 30 unique studies involving 1,543,639 children to examine the risks of asthma/wheezing disorders in children born preterm.

The researchers found that preterm birth correlated with a significantly elevated risk of wheezing disorders in unadjusted (13.7 versus 8.3%; odds ratio [OR], 1.71) and adjusted analyses (OR, 1.46). Among children born very preterm (before 32 weeks of gestation), the risk was particularly high (unadjusted OR, 3.00; adjusted OR, 2.81). The correlations were most pronounced in studies with low risk of bias, and the findings were consistent across sensitivity analyses. For childhood wheezing disorders, the estimated population-attributable risk of preterm birth was ≥3.1%.

“This work provides compelling evidence that preterm birth is an important early life risk factor for wheezing disorders in childhood,” the authors write. “Given the increasing incidence of both entities and their potentially lifelong consequences, there is an urgent need to identify the underlying mechanisms and explore the potential for preventive and therapeutic approaches.”

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