HealthDay News — A common genetic variation significantly increases the odds of asthma in children who’ve had a severe respiratory illness at a young age, according to research published online August 24 in PLOS ONE.

The study involved 3,483 Hispanic children, aged 8 to 21, and 666 black children. The researchers focused on a variation of the plasminogen activator inhibitor-1 (PAI-1) gene.

The team found that asthma risk was 17 times higher among children with this variation who had bronchiolitis by the age of 2. And it was 12 times higher among those with this variation who early in life had any lower respiratory tract infection requiring medical care. By itself, the PAI-1 gene variant was not associated with a higher asthma risk. The risk of asthma increased only with the combination of the variant and a severe viral respiratory illness at a young age.

“These results could lead to studies moving towards the personalized prevention of asthma,” senior author Rajesh Kumar, MD, an allergist at the Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, said in a hospital news release. “Further research is needed to see if we can intervene with genetically susceptible children prior to or during a lower respiratory tract infection to reduce their chances of developing asthma.”

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