Pneumonia: the Silent Killer?

Each year on November 12th World Pneumonia Day takes place. Since 2009 the World Pneumonia day is held to create more awareness and generate action to fight pneumonia and promote interventions to prevent and treat pneumonia.

Did you know?

Pneumonia is an infectious respiratory disease that affects the lungs and is associated with high mortality, especially among young children and the elderly. According to the Global Burden of Disease, about 75% of the pneumonia deaths are within Children <5 years and older adults of >70 years and older.  In 2019, pneumonia claimed the lives of approximately 700,000 children and 1,000,000 elderly people worldwide. COVID-19 could add an additional 1.9 million to the death toll this year over the total world population.

Studying existing data

In Europe, the prevalence of Community-acquired pneumonia (CAP) is known to be around 14 per 1000 habitants. Although the set of causes of CAP is not always known, Streptococcus pneumonia appears to be the most frequently identified pathogen. The presence of underlying comorbidities diseases and a decline in immune system both contribute to an increased risk of pneumonia in the elderly. The IMI2-VITAL data source review identified several studies conducted within the elderly population reporting composite burden of disease (BoD) measures for CAP, although not specifically for pneumococcal pneumonia. A previous review revealed important data and knowledge gaps pertaining to CAP in the elderly, including scarce information on etiology and outpatient incidence data and lacking composite BoD measures. As such it has been decided to comprehensively study the BoD of pneumococcal pneumonia using a composite BoD measure within VITAL Work Package 1. The team will use two of the highest quality health databases in Europe: the ones from Denmark and The Valencia Region of Spain. The results will provide evidence-based knowledge on possible specific vaccination strategies to improve healthy ageing.

A vaccination to do the trick?

VITAL’s Work Package 2 is performing a clinical vaccination study on the immune responses to influenza and pneumococcal conjugate vaccines in older adults compared to middle-aged adults and adults. This study aims to compare the immune responses induced by two vaccines and helps to understand underlying mechanisms of non-responsiveness in different age groups. All participants of the study received the seasonal influenza vaccine (quadrivalent inactivated influenza vaccine) during autumn 2019 or 2020. A pneumococcal vaccination (13-valent pneumococcal conjugate vaccine, PCV13) is given to the same individuals. This vaccine can reduce the chance to invasive pneumococcal disease and, to a lesser extent, community acquired pneumonia. Currently the team has finished the vaccinations of PCV13 in their study and will continue their analysis.

“If we want to have a healthy adult population and maintain our public health systems, we must start thinking that vaccines are not just for children. We have at least two available vaccines to prevent pneumonia: Influenza and pneumococcal vaccines. We just need to use them!”