Pneumonia and sepsis are the most common killers of children worldwide. At the time of World Pneumonia Day, MRC Gambia joins the global effort in raising awareness of the size of the pneumonia problem and highlighting the need to prevent and treat pneumonia.
MRC focusses on all aspects of pneumonia/sepsis problems. Recent research into the risk factors for childhood pneumonia has highlighted malnutrition as the major risk factor for contracting and dying from pneumonia. The microbial causes of pneumonia and sepsis are monitored in the rural area of Basse, at our Fajara headquarters, and at the central teaching hospital in Banjul. We recently participated in a global study of the causes of pneumonia and found in our setting that pneumococcus and staphylococcus bacteria were common causes as well as the Respiratory Syncytial Virus.
MRC continues to provide globally relevant data on the impact of vaccination against pneumococcus and Haemophilus influenzae type b, which are both common causes of pneumonia and sepsis. Ongoing vaccine research focusses on how the impact of vaccines can be increased. Studies are considering the benefits of providing immunisation in pregnancy and to newborns. MRC works closely with the Gambia Government immunisation program on operational issues of vaccine coverage, wastage, and the cost of vaccines in relation to the costs of diseases. We recently found that the costs to the government in providing treatment for patients and the costs to families by providing care for children with mild pneumonia were US$14, severe pneumonia costs US$96, and a case of pneumococcal sepsis costs US$131. Government investment in pneumococcal vaccine will reduce the economic impact of these diseases.
Pneumonia is treated with antibiotics, however, in some cases supplementary treatments are needed, such as oxygen, when the pneumonia infection in the lungs prevents adequate oxygen absorption. MRC tests the common bacteria causing pneumonia and sepsis to determine which antibiotics will be effective. The provision of oxygen for the treatment of pneumonia is difficult, nonetheless, MRC is breaking new ground in the development of an adaptable system to provide oxygen in low-resource settings. We are also testing whether treatment with zinc may benefit children with pneumonia.
MRC will continue to research more effective ways to prevent pneumonia and sepsis, as well as more effective ways to provide treatment in the community and in health facilities says Dr Grant Mackenzie, Clinical Epidemiologist.
Read more about pneumonia research at MRC on: http://www.mrc.gm/tag/pneumonia/