Preterm birth raises asthma risk three-fold, major study finds

Children born preterm are up to three times more likely to develop asthma in later life, a large study has concluded.

Preterm birth: babies born before 32 weeks of gestation face higher asthma risk (photo: Joseph Nettis/Science Photo Library)
Preterm birth: babies born before 32 weeks of gestation face higher asthma risk (photo: Joseph Nettis/Science Photo Library)

The meta-analysis of 30 studies involving 1.5m children found the increased risk was particularly marked in those born before 32 weeks of gestation.

Study authors said there was now ‘compelling evidence’ of a link between preterm birth and wheezing disorders.

They added: 'Given the projected global increases in children surviving preterm births, research now needs to focus on understanding underlying mechanisms, and then to translate these insights into the development of preventive interventions.'

The international team of researchers found wheezing disorders were 46% more likely in children born before 37 weeks of gestation. In children born before 32 weeks, this risk rose to three times as likely.

Researchers estimated that preterm birth may be responsible for about 3.1% of childhood wheezing disorders.

They also found that the increased risk persisted throughout childhood. Study authors said this refuted previous suggestions that the effects of preterm birth on asthma diminish with age.

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