Lower respiratory tract illness (LRTI) is a leading cause of mortality and morbidity in children. Sensitive and noninvasive infant lung function techniques are needed to measure risk for and impact of LRTI on lung health. The objective of this study was to investigate whether lung function derived from the intra-breath forced oscillation technique (FOT) was able to identify healthy infants at risk of LRTI in the first year of life.
Lung function was measured with the novel intra-breath FOT, in 6-week-old infants in a South African birth cohort (Drakenstein Child Health Study). LRTI during the first year was confirmed by study staff. The association between baseline lung function and LRTI was assessed with logistic regression and odds ratios determined using optimal cut-off values.
Of the 627 healthy infants with successful lung function testing, 161 (24%) had 238 LRTI episodes subsequently during the first year. Volume dependence of respiratory resistance (Delta R) and reactance (Delta X) was associated with LRTI. The predictive value was stronger if LRTI was recurrent (n=50 (31%): OR 2.5, Delta X), required hospitalisation (n=38 (16%): OR 5.4, DR) or was associated with wheeze (n=87 (37%): OR 3.9, Delta X).
Intra-breath FOT can identify healthy infants at risk of developing LRTI, wheezing or severe illness in the first year of life.