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Press relase: pdfPress-Summary-Swiss-Aerosol-Award-2021.pdf133.8 kB

Fine dust exacerbates colds

Exposure to particulate matter alters the immune response of nasal epithelial cells in a way that makes it easier for cold viruses to multiply. This leads to a stronger inflammatory response, which is thought to be associated with more symptoms. This was shown by PD Dr. Loretta Müller and PD Dr. Jakob Usemann in their work - which was awarded the Swiss Aerosol Award 2021. 

It has been known for some time that particulate matter and other air pollutants can influence the immune response and the reproduction of influenza viruses. However, it has not yet been investigated whether air pollution alters infection with the so-called rhinoviruses. Rhinoviruses are very frequent viruses and mainly cause the common cold. In children, however, rhinoviruses can also cause severe respiratory symptoms. In addition, rhinovirus infection may predispose for later asthma development. 

In their award-winning work on the influence of diesel particles on the susceptibility of nasal epithelial cells to rhinovirus infection, PD Dr. Loretta Müller, group leader in the Pediatric Pneumology and Allergology at the University Children’s Hospital, Inselspital Bern and the Department of BioMedical Research (DBMR) at the University of Bern, and PD Dr. Jakob Usemann, consultant at the University Children’s Hospital Zürich and research associate at the Children's Hospital of Basel (UKBB), were able to show that prior exposure to diesel particles increases the amount of rhinovirus in nasal epithelial cells. This occurs via the downregulation of viral defense receptors and an upregulation of inflammatory messenger substances. The study, which included nasal epithelial cells from 49 children aged 0-7 years and 12 adults, also showed that the effects were independent of the participant’s age.

The Swiss Aerosol Award will be/was presented on 02 November 2021 at the 16th meeting of the Swiss Aerosol Group (SAG). The prize is endowed with CHF 5 000. 


  • Otto Brändli, Swiss Lung Foundation, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; 079 688 53 37
  • PD Dr. Loretta Müller, Pediatric Pneumology and Allergology, University Children’s Hospital, Inselspital Bern and Department of BioMedical Research (DBMR), University of Bern, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., 079 605 32 22
  • PD Dr. med Jakob Usemann, PhD, University Children's Hospital Basel (UKBB), This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., 076 441 95 18

Original title: Diesel exposure increases susceptibility of primary human nasal epithelial cells to rhinovirus infection



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