Fatal Flu

Allison Shike (3 PM Micro) found this news alert via Innovations Report. Here is Allison’s summary about influenza and a bacterial infection that was just covered in class:

Scientist from Max F. Perutz Laboratories of the University of Vienna and the Medical University of Vienna have performed a study on the effects on the lungs of patients with the flu and a bacterial infection. A fatal combination is formed when a flu patient also becomes infected with a bacterial infection. They hope the results will improve patient outcome and prevent permanent lung damage by developing alternative treatments for flu-related bacterial infections.

The flu is caused by an infection of the influenza virus. The virus mainly targets the respiratory tract. Around five to fifteen percent of the population is diagnosed with an upper respiratory tract infection caused by the flu virus. Many deaths also occur of the illness every year. The flu virus and a secondary infection with bacteria mainly cause these deaths.

Influenza increases the susceptibility to a bacterial infection. Legionella pneumophila can normally be fought off by the immune system. During the times of a flu virus Legionella can cause a ling damaging or even fatal type of pneumonia. The scientist thought that the infection was so fatal because the bacteria was growing and spreading like crazy. Further testing showed that the number of bacteria was not altered.

Lung damage caused by the Legionella co-infection will not be repaired properly as the virus suppresses the body’s repairing tissue damage ability. Drugs that activate tissue repair pathways greatly improved the infected patient’s outcome. More options for treatment will be explored to deal with co-infections of the flu and bacteria.

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About ycpmicro

My name is David Singleton, and I am an Associate Professor of Microbiology at York College of Pennsylvania. My main course is BIO230, a course taken by allied-health students at YCP. Views on this site are my own.

Posted on May 3, 2013, in Danger danger danger!, Guest Post. Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on Fatal Flu.

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