Elderly more prone to community-acquired pneumonia

May 27th, 2011 - 5:56 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, May 27 (IANS) Community-acquired pneumonia (CAP), which causes difficulty in breathing, fever, chest pains and cough, is the leading cause of infectious death among the elderly.

New research at The University of Texas Health Science Centre suggests why older people are vulnerable to CAP. They found that when it comes to aging and pneumonia, one bad apple can ruin the entire barrel.

Lung cells that were supposed to die due to DNA damage - but didn’t - were five to 15 times more susceptible to attacks by pneumonia-causing bugs, reports the journal Aging Cell.

Close to a billion adults worldwide are at risk of pneumonia. They include more than 800 million adults who are older than 65 and an estimated 210 million with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), according to a Texas statement.

Both age and COPD are associated with aging cells that survive, thanks to defective DNA. These cells have increased levels of proteins that disease-causing bugs stick to and co-opt to invade the bloodstream.

“Senescent (aging) cells prime the lungs for infection,” said study co-author Pooja Shivshankar, researcher in microbiology and immunology at the Texas Health Science Centre.

Controlling the inflammatory molecules’ release could short-circuit pneumonia risk in the elderly, said senior study author Carlos Orihuela, assistant professor and Shivshankar’s departmental counterpart at Texas.

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