A possible hidden reason for ventilator-associated pneumonia

December 19, 2018

By: Jan Jarvis
Ticks Web

Surgical patients who need ventilators to breathe face heightened risks for pneumonia, but detecting the bacteria that might be causing the infection can be complicated.

One reason for the confusion is that bacteria that appear on cultures of the lungs, often labeled “normal respiratory tract flora,” are considered harmless. But they’re not – or they may be indicative of a problem about to begin, said Michael Allen, PhD, Associate Professor of Microbiology, Immunology and Genetics.

The study is featured on the newly launched PLOS One Microbiome site, a forum for peer-reviewed research. It explores one reason why the source of infections for many mechanically ventilated surgical patients has been unclear.

HSC Insider

Learn more about UNTHSC’s people and programs by signing up for the weekly HSC Insider email.

When a culture is taken, the test results can seem obvious. Confusion often develops when bacteria appear but there are no specific pathogens on the culture.

This implies the flora is harmless and does not need to be treated. But the opposite may be true, said Dr. Allen.

“The culture is typically either negative and not a problem, or it lights up with horrible pathogens and is a serious problem,” Dr. Allen said. “Our data suggest that in some patients the flora in the lungs is in transition to disease or that it is susceptible to an infection. Maybe it’s not there quite yet, but it’s headed that way.”

Ventilator-associated pneumonia is a common cause of death in critically ill patients. Eighty-six percent of hospital-acquired pneumonias are associated with mechanical ventilation. It is estimated that the fatality rate is as high as 60 percent.

Typically, patents have not been treated for pneumonia when the culture showed mixed results with no evidence of pathogens. But the discovery could lead to a change in how the disease is treated.

Fort Worth Trinity River
Should you leave the city during COVID-19?

By Alex Branch Tensions are rising in some communities as New York City residents flee the densely populated city for other areas amid the COVID-19 outbreak. We asked Dr. Ubydul Haque, Assistant Professor of Biostatics and Epidemiology in the HSC School of Public Health who has researched les...Read more

Mar 27, 2020

Seniors Chat On Social Media Unthsc Fc
COVID-19: the importance of keeping up your social connections

By Sally Crocker As more kids find themselves homebound now that families across the country are practicing safe distancing to prevent the spread of coronavirus, it may be important to increase, rather than limit, screen time for children and teens, say two researchers at HSC Fort Worth’s S...Read more

Mar 26, 2020

Yu Tao Fc
COVID-19 outbreak in U.S. echoes events in Chinese HSC student’s homeland

By Diane Smith Exhausted and stressed are terms Dr. Yu Tao uses to describe how she felt in early 2020 as she monitored the path of COVID-19 as it emerged in her native China and moved across the globe. Dr. Tao, a licensed physician in China, is a PhD student at The University of North Tex...Read more

Mar 26, 2020

Healthcare Strain Fc
Providers face challenges as COVID-19 puts strains on healthcare system

By Sally Crocker Arthur Mora, PhD, MHA, and his wife are concerned. With two young daughters ages 5 and 3 at home and a new baby on the way in just a few short weeks, the HSC School of Public Health Chair of Health Behavior and Health Systems says he and his wife are closely monitoring the...Read more

Mar 26, 2020