Pneumonia is a growing cause of hospitalization in U.S.

Posted Jul 20, 2015 by Tim Sandle
Pneumonia is one of the leading causes of hospitalization among adults in the U.S., to the extent that the medical costs exceeded $10 billion. It is also a major reason for death.
File photo: Child with whooping cough.
File photo: Child with whooping cough.
Akron Children's Hospital
New figures about medical costs and associated incidence rates have come from a new report issued by the U.S. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC report highlights one of the main obstacles to dealing with pneumonia effectively is the time taken for a diagnosis. Pneumonia can be caused by bacteria or viruses.
Pneumonia is an inflammatory condition of the lung. The common signs and symptoms are a cough, chest pain, fever, and difficulty breathing. Many different types of bacteria and viruses that can lead to pneumonia. In many text books, it is assumed that the leading cause is bacterial. However, the results of a recent study make this assumption less clear-cut.
In the recent study, 2,488 adults of an average age of 57, of which 2,320 had radiographically confirmed pneumonia, were analysed. Viral pneumonia was found in 27 percent of the subjects and bacterial pneumonia in 14 percent. With the others, the causative agent could not be determined using standard methods: culture, serologic testing, antigen detection, and molecular diagnostic testing. This alone highlights the need for better detection methods. X-rays reveal pneumonia at a more advanced stage; treatment options are better if diagnostic test kits can detect the disease and its cause early. However, based on this study, 60 percent of the time the laboratory test kits were unsuccessful.
In terms of viruses, the most commonly associated virus was influenza. The study suggests that flu is the biggest cause of pneumonia. In adults aged over 80, this association was very high, indicating the importance of influenza avoidance among the elderly.
Other viruses in association with pneumonia were: human metapneumovirus, respiratory syncytial virus, parainfluenza virus, coronavirus, and adenovirus. With bacterial pneumonia, the number one cause was Streptococcus pneumonia, followed by Legionella pneumophila, and Chlamydophila pneumonia.
This list of viruses and bacteria indicates that pneumonia can come from a range of different microbial sources and knowing this as early as possible can assist significantly with the appropriate treatment option.
The CDC is highlighting the need for improved and rapid diagnostic tests. Here CDC Director Tom Frieden is quoted as saying: “Most of the time doctors are unable to pinpoint a specific cause of pneumonia. We urgently need more sensitive, rapid tests to identify causes of pneumonia and to promote better treatment.”
A more in-depth assessment of the risks of pneumonia and causes of hospitalizations in the U.S. has been published in the New England Journal of Medicine. The paper is titled “Community-Acquired Pneumonia Requiring Hospitalization among U.S. Adults.”