The impact of early life exposures on chronic respiratory illness in African children


  • Diane Gray

    University of Cape Town

Project summary

Lung disease is a leading cause of death in children and chronic lung disease (CLD), such as asthma and chronic obstructive lung disease (COPD), is a major contributor to global disease burden. Lung disease and low lung function in infancy may increase a person’s risk for CLD in later life. Protecting the lungs from early damage may reduce the risk of CLD, important in low and middle-income countries (LMIC) where the burden is so high.

We have followed 1,000 infants enrolled in an African cohort from birth to three years. Our research identified antenatal and early life exposures that impair normal lung function and we have shown that pneumonia in early life leads to altered infant lung function. We are now following these children up to age six, collecting comprehensive information about risk factors and measuring their lung function every year. This will help us better understand the impact of early exposures such as pneumonia on lung health at six years. 

This research will help us understand why children get lung disease and identify the most important risk factors for progression of lung disease. This information may help us identify targets for reducing CLD and strengthening lung health, particularly in LMIC.

This grant was awarded under the scheme's previous name of Intermediate Fellowships in Public Health and Tropical Medicine.