Steroids help in quicker recovery from pneumonia

October 15th, 2008 - 3:29 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Oct 15 (IANS) Steroids often used in treating inflammation caused by bacterial meningitis also speed up recovery from pneumonia, according to a new study. University of Texas (UT) Southwestern researchers have showed that mice infected with a type of severe bacterial pneumonia and subsequently treated with steroids and antibiotics recovered faster, with far less inflammation in their lungs than mice treated with antibiotics alone.

Pneumonia is a lung infection characterised by breathing difficulties and spread by coughing and sneezing. Symptoms include headache, fever, chills, coughs, chest pain, sore throat and nausea.

Robert Hardy demonstrated in mice that using corticosteroids as well as traditional antimicrobial therapy might eventually help people with pneumonia recover more quickly, according to a Southwestern release.

“Some people might think that if you give steroids, it would counteract the effect of the antibiotic,” said Hardy, associate professor of internal medicine and paediatrics and the study’s co-author.

“But it turns out you need the antibiotic to kill the bug and the steroid to make the inflammation in the lung from the infection get better. The steroids don’t kill the bugs, but they do help restore health.”

Pneumonia caused by the Mycoplasma pneumoniae bacterium is generally a less severe form of the disease that can occur in any age group. It accounts for 20 percent to 30 percent of all community-acquired pneumonia cases.

In the current study, mice infected with the M pneumoniae bacterium were treated daily with a placebo, an antibiotic, a steroid, or a combination of the antibiotic and steroid in order to investigate the effect on M pneumoniae-induced airway inflammation. The animals were then evaluated after one, three and six days of therapy.

“It turns out that the group that got both the antibiotic and the steroids did the best,” Hardy said. “The inflammation in their lungs got significantly better.”

Hardy said it was too early to recommend steroids as standard treatment for people with this type of bacterial pneumonia, but the work does support the need for a clinical trial.

These findings are available online and are scheduled for publication in the Journal of Infectious Diseases.

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