What is the role of viral infection in bacterial pneumonia?

Updated: Sep 30, 2020
  • Author: Justina Gamache, MD; Chief Editor: Guy W Soo Hoo, MD, MPH  more...
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With the recent H1N1 influenza virus pandemic, it is important to address the role that viral infection can have in bacterial pneumonia.

The association between infection with influenza virus and subsequent bacterial pneumonia became particularly apparent following the 1918 influenza pandemic, during which approximately 40-50 million people died. [21] Historical investigations and current researchers argue that the vast majority of pulmonary-related deaths from past pandemic influenza viruses, most notably the pandemic of 1918, ultimately resulted from bacteriologic secondary or coinfection and poorly understood interactions between the infecting viral and bacterial organisms. [22] Although influenza virus is the most commonly thought of agent in this co-infective context, other respiratory viruses, such as respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), parainfluenza viruses, adenovirus, and rhinoviruses, may also predispose to secondary bacterial infection. [21]

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