World Pneumonia Day – 12th November

Pneumonia is a major cause of death among all age groups, resulting in 1.4 million deaths in 2010 (7% of the world’s yearly total) and was the 4th leading cause of death in the world in 2016, resulting in 3 million deaths worldwide.

Pneumonia is an infection of the deep parts of the lungs called the alveoli. This is where oxygen is transferred into the blood from the air, but during pneumonia the alveoli are invaded by bacteria or viruses which then causes the alveoli to fill up with fluid and white cells in an attempt by the body to kill the bugs. Alveoli filled with fluid and cells is called consolidation and shows up on an X-ray, and is also why patients with pneumonia become breathless as there is less lung available to transfer oxygen into the blood. If the pneumonia spreads to affect the edge of the lung, then it can inflame the membrane that covers the lung called the pleura. This causes a lot of pain, especially on breathing in, and is called pleurisy.

Recent research by Professor Brown’s infection research team at UCL Respiratory has had three research papers published which describe new findings about the commonest causes of pneumonia.

Streptococcus pneumoniae interacts with humans to cause infection. They describe the mechanisms by which the human immune system recognises the presence of S. pneumoniae and then responds to cause inflammation that is necessary for controlling infection. They are basic science research which do not directly feed into clinical care, but help us better understand how diseases like pneumonia develop and could therefore be prevented.

  1. Weight CM, et al. Epithelial control of colonisation by Streptococcus pneumoniae at the human mucosal surface Nat Comms 2019 10(1):3060.
  2. Javan RR et al. Prophages and satellite prophages are widespread among Streptococcus species and may play a role in pneumococcal pathogenesis Nat Communications, in press 2019.
  3. Periselneris J et al. Relative contribution of extracellular and internalised bacteria to early macrophage pro-inflammatory responses to Streptococcus pneumoniae. mBio, in press 2019.

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