New Insights on Flu in Healthy Children Thanks to RHA-funded Study

A key component of Respiratory Health Association’s (RHA) mission is to help people live better through funding lung disease research. In 2016, RHA awarded research funding to Dr. Bria Coates of Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine to study how the influenza A virus impacts the immune system response in the development of lung injuries in children. Last month, Dr. Coates’ findings were published in The Journal of Immunology.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), around 50 percent of all children under 5 years old who die from influenza (commonly known as the flu) annually were previously healthy. This comes in stark contrast to adults who die from the flu, who typically had a medical condition that increased their risk of mortality.

Previously, it was believed that children were more susceptible because their immune systems were not strong enough to respond. However, Dr. Coates’ findings suggest that children’s immune systems overreact to the flu virus, causing more inflammation which leads to greater lung damage and the potential of increased mortality – a previously unknown immune response.

These findings suggest new ways of treating the issue in children in the future.

Dr. Coates credits RHA’s funding for playing a crucial role in allowing her to do this research.

“RHA’s funding is wonderful for an early stage investigator,” said Dr. Coates, “It served as the springboard to advance the project.” RHA’s funding allowed Dr. Coates to publish findings demonstrating why this topic area is important for continued research and requires additional funding.

Dr. Coates intends to continue exploring what drives the increased immune response, how to mitigate its effects, and develop new therapies. “All we have is supportive care to treat the flu,” said Dr. Coates, “so any advancements in therapy would be huge for the field and for the public.”

Respiratory Health Association funds groundbreaking local lung disease researchers like Dr. Coates at major institutions. Other research areas of focus have included asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), lung cancer, idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), and more. These grants are designed to aid local scientists and investigators with generating the preliminary data necessary to compete for future federal funding. For more information, visit Research.