Pneumonia Still A Mystery

A drug trial intended to determine if statin drugs improve outcomes in pneumonia patients found that it doesn’t work. Doctors at a French hospital gave 300 volunteers with pneumonia either statin drugs—drugs used to lower cholesterol—or an inert placebo in addition to standard treatment. What they found was that there was no evidence of any significant improvement in outcomes between the two groups, and that the addition of statins to the treatment regimen has no effect on the effectiveness of that treatment.

There had been previous studies suggesting that the drugs were beneficial for patients with pneumonia, but that had been patients taking statins for high cholesterol or other conditions for which the drugs are currently used. While statins do have anti-inflammatory properties, they did not prove useful against pneumonia.

That leaves antibiotics or antiviral medications—depending on whether the cause is bacteria or a virus—as the primary treatment for the lung disease. Patients who are old, who are young, or who have severe symptoms may need to be hospitalized. Hospitalization is also necessary in some cases in which there are complications, such as bacteria in the blood. Treatment can take as long as a month to show signs of completely clearing the infection.

Some vaccines help prevent pneumonia. Most forms of flu vaccine can keep it at bay, which is one reason it’s important to get flu shots every year. There is also a vaccine specifically for bacterial pneumonia, which only needs to be administered once. Several routine childhood vaccinations, such as for pertussis, varicella, and measles, are effective against pneumonia as well.

Another important preventative measure is avoiding indoor air pollution. That means not smoking, being careful about cooking and making sure there is adequate ventilation, and keeping down mold and dust. Hygiene in general is also important, washing your hands regularly and using hand sanitizer when needed. Keeping healthy generally—with a balanced diet, regular exercise, and enough sleep—will help you avoid opportunistic infections such as pneumonia.

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