The bacterium Streptococcus pneumoniae, also called pneumococcus, is the most common cause of bacterial pneumonia globally

Streptococcus pneumoniae, also called pneumococcus, is the most common cause of bacterial pneumonia globally

Pneumonia

Pneumonia is an acute illness characterized by fluid in one or both lungs: Alveoli, the air sacs in the lungs fill with fluid, hindering oxygen from reaching the blood stream and the red blood cells. The diagnosis of pneumonia can be made in a number of different ways. The use of a chest x-ray is the most sensitive way to diagnose pneumonia, but physicians, nurses, and other healthcare providers accurately diagnose many cases of pneumonia by using a stethoscope and/or observing a child’s respiratory rate and breathing patterns.

More than 30 different bacteria, viruses, and other agents can cause pneumonia. In young children, typically bacterial pneumonia cases are less common but more severe than viral pneumonia cases. When not treated with antibiotics, bacterial pneumonia in young children can rapidly lead to death, especially if the child is malnourished or has other underlying diseases that make it hard to fight the infection.

The bacterium Streptococcus pneumoniae, also called pneumococcus, is the most common cause of bacterial pneumonia globally. The second leading cause of bacterial pneumonia is Haemophilus influenzae – infections due to H. influenzae serotype B (also called HiB) are particularly important. Antibiotics can often cure bacterial pneumonia but the bacteria are increasingly resistant to common antibiotics, making effective treatment more difficult.

Viruses are also important causes of pneumonia and other acute respiratory infections. In infants and young children, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is the most common cause of viral pneumonias and a closely related condition called bronchiolitis. Other important viral causes of pneumonia in children include parainfluenza and influenza viruses. Recently a virus called coronavirus was recognized as the cause of SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome). The importance of SARS as a cause of pneumonia in children will need to be determined as new tests for the infection become available.