Pneumonia in transplant patients can be avoided

Life-threatening pneumonia in bone marrow transplant (BMT) patients can be controlled using a strategy called pre-emptive therapy, scientists heard today (Wednesday 10 April 2002) at the spring meeting of the Society for General Microbiology at the University of Warwick.

“We have found that early diagnosis and treatment of colds and flu in transplant and immunocompromised patients can reduce the risk of pneumonia. But pre-emptive therapy is not just a question of providing drugs to patients. This research has highlighted the need for strict infection control measures to be put in place,” says Dr Anna Maria Geretti of King’s College Hospital, London.

Dr Geretti explains, “Hospitals need to set up surveillance programmes within BMT units based on prompt recognition of symptoms and rapid viral diagnostic methods. Health care workers should receive the flu vaccine, and we may have to restrict access to family members and visitors even if they have only minor symptoms such as a runny nose.”

Respiratory viruses may affect nearly 50% of high-risk patients during winter months. Influenza, Parainfluenza and Respiratory Syncytical Viruses are common. In these patients infections can spread from the upper respiratory tract to the lungs causing life-threatening pneumonia. Available treatments do not show any benefit once severe pneumonia has developed.

Dr Geretti says, “Raising awareness of the potential severity of viral respiratory infections may reduce the number of deaths in high-risk patients. BMT and AIDS patients with respiratory infections may also benefit from several new antiviral drugs, such as neuraminidase inhibitors.”

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