A common bacterium found in your nose could trigger Pneumonia
These single celled miniscule organisms are everywhere; all around us, on things around us, in the food we eat and even on our skin and inside our bodies. Yes, we are talking about bacteria. Bacteria were first observed in 1676 by Anton Van Leeuwenhoek through a microscope and were called animalcules.
In 1838, the German Naturalist Christian Gottfried Ehrenberg rechristened them as bacteria. The origin of the name came from the Greek word baktḗria, meaning little stick. This was a reminder of the rod like shape of the first bacteria observed. Now we know that bacteria may come in varied shapes including spiral or spherical.
We all have scores of bacteria residing on our skin, various varieties in our mouth and more than 500 species of bacteria in our gastrointestinal tract. Even our noses and nasal passages also house colonies of bacteria. Normally these are good bacteria and reside in our bodies without causing any harm.
But it’s a fact not known by many that various bacteria residing in a healthy person’s nose and throat can cause Pneumonia if they spread to the lungs of a person. Bacterial Pneumonia is an infection that may occur in one or both lungs.
The infection may be limited to just one section of the lung or it may spread to entire lung. Pneumococcal Pneumonia is the most common form of bacterial pneumonia in adults which is caused by common bacteria Streptococcus pneumonia. This bacterium normally resides in the noses and throats of healthy people and may enter the lungs through inhalation.
In a normal healthy person the immune system keeps these bacteria in check, but if the immune system is weakened or suppressed due to reasons such as illness, old age etc any these bacteria may multiply in the lungs and cause Pneumonia. These bacteria on moving to otherwise sterile environments of the lung cause the small sacs known as alveoli become inflamed and filled with mucous.
These tiny sacs are the locations where the oxygen from lung is transferred to blood and in a person suffering from Pneumonia the oxygen transfer to blood vessels becomes difficult. The symptoms of pneumonia vary from mild to severe cases. In mild cases the symptoms often are similar to those of common cold or flu, but they last longer e cases, while in severe cases complications such as difficulty in breathing, lung abscess or fluid accumulation in lungs.
People at higher risk for developing bacterial pneumonia are infants, young children, people older than 65, people suffering from illness or using immunosuppressant drugs over a long term as well as smokers. People infected with Pneumonia may expel these bacteria while sneezing, coughing, laughing or talking and these may spread to others.
A pneumococcal vaccine is available which has been recommended for people with very low immunity (old people, children or suffering from certain other illnesses) for prevention from this disease.