Vaccination may prevent severe pneumonia and death in children, study finds
Delhi: Children administered with a vaccine against pneumonia-causing bacteria are 35% less likely to develop severe pneumonia, according to a recent study. The study was presented at the World Congress of the World Society for Pediatric Infectious Diseases in Manilla, The Philippines.
Pneumonia, an infection that inflames the air sacs in one or both lungs, is caused by bacteria, virus or fungi. As the lungs get filled up with pus and fluid, the infection causes difficulty breathing, cough with phlegm or pus, fever, and chills.
According to a recent analysis by UNICEF, one child dies of pneumonia every 39 seconds. Pneumonia has claimed the lives of more than 800,000 children under the age of five last year. Five countries were responsible for more than half of child pneumonia deaths: Nigeria (162,000), India (127,000), Pakistan (58,000), the Democratic Republic of Congo (40,000) and Ethiopia (32,000).
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According to WHO, World Pneumonia Day, established in 2009, is marked every year on November 12th to:
- Raise awareness about pneumonia, the world’s leading infectious killer of children under the age of 5
- Promote interventions to protect against, prevent, and treat pneumonia and highlight proven approaches and solutions in need of additional resources and attention.
- Generate action, including continued donor investment, to combat pneumonia and other common, yet sometimes deadly, childhood diseases
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The research is a collaborative effort between the Murdoch Children's Research Institute (MCRI) and the University of Melbourne along with colleagues in the Asia-Pacific region,
"Many pneumonia-related deaths could be prevented by a vaccine against pneumococcal bacteria," said MCRI Professor Fiona Russell. "Because showing the impact of the vaccine against pneumonia was challenging as surveillance systems weren't in place, our team had to think of a new way to illustrate how the vaccine worked."
"Vaccinating children protects the whole community by reducing the spread of pneumococcus because little children who commonly carry pneumococcus in the back of their nose are mostly responsible for the spread of these bacteria," Professor Russell said.
"Our team took pneumococcus samples from the noses of healthy children and children with pneumonia. While most children with pneumococcus in their nose remain free of symptoms, a small but important proportion of children will have bacteria that spread into the lungs or bloodstream, causing serious infection and possibly death.
"By discovering that the bacteria is commonly carried at the back of the nose (both in healthy children and children with pneumonia), our study highlights that it is likely a significant contributor to severe infections in Laos."
Professor Russell said the research was among the first to evaluate pneumococcal vaccines in Asia, as pneumococcus was often overlooked as a cause of pneumonia because it is challenging to detect.
"One of the main causes of death from pneumonia is a lack of oxygen in the blood. Supplementary oxygen is a life-saving therapy that is unfortunately not consistently available across hospitals in Laos," she said.
Professor Russell said her team had developed a new method using data collected from a hospital in Laos, to demonstrate that the vaccine worked against the severest form of pneumonia.
"We are also testing this new method in Papua New Guinea and Mongolia and so far the results look very promising," she said. We hope this method can be used by other similar countries to show the value of this important vaccine."
Source: Vaccine reduces likelihood of severe pneumonia