Study finds bacterial pneumonia is key to deaths in influenza pandemics

NEWS IN BRIEF — Posted Sept. 8, 2008

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Most deaths during the influenza pandemic of 1918-1919 were caused by bacterial pneumonia that followed the viral infection, according to a study available online in the Journal of Infectious Diseases.

The authors, who include National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony S. Fauci, MD, conclude that comprehensive pandemic preparations should encompass not only efforts to produce new or improved influenza vaccines and antiviral drugs but also provisions for stockpiling antibiotics and bacterial vaccines.

Without the secondary bacterial infection, many patients might have survived, experts at the time believed. The availability of antibiotics during later influenza pandemics, specifically those in 1957 and 1968, probably was a key factor in the lower number of worldwide deaths then, noted study co-author David Morens, MD, NIAID senior scientific adviser.

Note: This item originally appeared at

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