A severe flu can cause MRSA Pneumonia – but you can avoid all that


As the flu season mercifully winds down, a final lesson on the value of vaccination comes to us from Paul Auwaerter, MD, at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.

Having just finished a few weeks in the hospital doing infectious disease consultation, a number of the physician residents asked him why Staph aureus, and MRSA in particular, seem to have such a predilection for causing secondary bacterial pneumonia after a severe bout of the flu.

Citing recent research, Auwaerter thinks that severe influenza may disrupt the Staph/MRSA biofilm in the nasal passages: “About one third of people harbor S aureus in the nostrils, and dispersal from the biofilm in this setting may lead to aspiration of S aureus into the lungs, which might be more susceptible to infection.”

The remedy, he says, is prevention, i.e. the flu vaccine – but not just any old flu vaccine:

With this ferocious influenza season, it has become obvious that we need to do better with prevention. Specifically, influenza vaccines need to be reformulated every year, and this year, it was estimated that the flu vaccine effectiveness was only in the mid-30% range, although it was perhaps better among pediatric populations.

Many people, including both adults and children, don’t get immunized. There seems to be a genuine need, that I view as quite urgent, that more effort be given to developing a universal influenza vaccine – one that might be more durable and would cover most strains. This not only would lead to less influenza, hospitalizations, and deaths, but also would have a huge economic impact from less absenteeism from work or school, as well as the benefits to individual health.

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