Human rhinoviruses (HRVs) are responsible for most cases of the
common cold. In healthy people, the consequences of HRV infections are usually
minor. However, this innocuous virus can have serious consequences in certain
individuals, with HRV infections linked to the onset of asthma in young children,
and to potentially life threatening exacerbations in those with established asthma.
Understanding the pathogenesis of HRV infections in asthma is thus a subject of
This article reviews recent advances in our understanding of HRV-induced
inflammatory pathways and immune responses, focussing on publications from the
last 4 years. We outline new insights into the different types of HRVs, the cellular
receptors they engage, and the transcriptional pathways that are engaged as a prelude to interferon
synthesis. The importance of cross-talk between the innate immune response to HRV infections and
cytokines produced during allergic inflammation is emphasised, with researchers continuing to
document both altered anti-viral interferon production and immune dysregulation in asthma. Better
definition of the mechanisms by which HRV infections induces lower airway inflammation is an
important foundation on which to develop novel therapies that target HRV and/or the immunopathology
that it induces.