By Ken Buben, President, FancyScrubs.com
Bacteria that cause pneumonia and meningitis are only able to spread when individuals are infected with flu, says a scientist reporting at the Society for General Microbiology’s Spring Conference in Harrogate. The scientific work on this could help reduce incidences of pneumococcal infections in the very young.
Streptococcus pneumoniae normally lives harmlessly in the nasal passage. If someone is infected with the flu it can spread to other parts of the body causing more infections. Young children, the elderly and the immunocompromised are most vulnerable to these secondary bacterial infections.
Dr Dimitri Diavatopoulos from the Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre in The Netherlands explains how infection with the flu virus is also necessary for transmitting S. pneumoniae between individuals. His work has shown that in infant mice, all mice had to be infected with flu for pneumococcal bacteria to efficiently spread between them. Blocking influenza infection in these mice effectively prevented the spread of the bacterium.
Learning how the viral infections affect and the spread of bacterial pathogens will be clinically helpful and hopefully reduce the death rate of these infections.
Meningococcal infection is an important cause of illness globally. There are an estimated 1.2 million cases and 135,000 deaths worldwide each year. On average 41,400 people died each year in the United States between 1979 and 2001 from influenza. Influenza spreads around the world in seasonal epidemics, resulting in the deaths of between 250,000 and 500,000 people every year, up to millions in some pandemic years.