Origins of Childhood Asthma Can Be Traced To Very Early in Pregnancy Interview with:

Dr Steve Turner MD MBBS Lead investigator of the study team and Respiratory paediatrician Royal Aberdeen Children’s Hospital

Dr. Stephen Turner

Dr Steve Turner MD MBBS
Lead investigator of the study team and
Respiratory paediatrician
Royal Aberdeen Children’s Hospital What is the background for this study?

Response: For almost thirty years there has been evidence that we are all born with a certain predisposition to what are called non communicable diseases (NCD) such as high blood pressure, type II diabetes and heart disease.

The evidence comes from studies which have linked reduced birth weight with increased risk for these NCDs in later life. The question which arises, and which has been more difficult to answer, is “when during pregnancy is the predisposition to for NCDs first seen?”

This is important to any attempt to reduce the unborn baby’s risk for NCD. We and other researchers have used fetal ultrasound data to link size before birth to non communicable diseases outcomes. In childhood, NCDs include asthma. What are the main findings?

Response: The main finding is that in our study we were able to link fetal size at ten weeks gestation, when the fetus was typically was 5 cm long, to asthma and breathing tests at five, ten and fifteen years of age. We found that small fetal size in early pregnancy, before some mothers might have known that they were pregnant, was linked to increased risk for asthma and for poorer breathing tests throughout childhood. We checked to see that this was not simply small fetuses growing into small children with small lungs and it is not that simple – the link between fetal size and childhood asthma is independent of the child’s size. What should readers take away from your report?

Response: The origins of childhood asthma can be traced to very early pregnancy. It is important to point out that not everyone at risk for developing asthma gets asthma and we know that things happening after birth are also important to developing asthma, for example exposure to the common cold virus and cigarette smoke. Put another way, the “bullet” which causes asthma is loaded before birth but it is exposures after birth which pull the trigger. What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Response: We need to better understand both the factors acting before birth and after birth and how these combine to cause asthma. Then we can start to prevent asthma. If the “action” (causing asthma) before birth is over with very early, any intervention will have to be done after birth and we know that this is likely to involve changes to the air and diet that the newborn child is exposed to before their first birthday. Thank you for your contribution to the community.


European Respiratory Society abstract:

Fetal origins of persistent childhood asthma

Note: Content is Not intended as medical advice. Please consult your health care provider regarding your specific medical condition and questions.

More Medical Research Interviews on

[wysija_form id=”5″]

Last Updated on September 6, 2016 by Marie Benz MD FAAD