Early administration may block infection of important cells deep in the lungs.

Two drugs used to treat asthma and allergies may offer a way to prevent a form of pneumonia that can kill up to 40 percent of people who contract it, researchers at the University of Virginia School of Medicine have found.

Influenza pneumonia results when a flu infection spreads to alveolar air sacs deep within the lungs. Normally, a flu infection does not progress that far into the lower respiratory tract, but when it does, the results can be deadly. “If infection is severe enough, and the immune response is potent enough, you get injury to these cells and are no longer able to get sufficient oxygen exchange,” explained UVA researcher Thomas J. Braciale, MD, PhD. “As a result of the infection of the cells, you can develop lethal pneumonia and die.”


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But early administration of the two asthma drugs, Accolate and Singulair, could prevent the infection of the alveolar cells deep in the lower respiratory tract, Braciale’s research suggests. “The excitement of this is the possibility of someone coming to see the physician with influenza that looks a little more severe than usual and treating them with the drugs Singulair or Accolate and preventing them from getting severe pneumonia,” he said. “The fatality rate from influenza pneumonia can be pretty high, even with all modern techniques to support these patients. Up to 40 percent. So it’s a very serious problem when it occurs.”

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