Community acquired pneumonia (CAP) continues to cause the greatest number of preventable deaths in the world.  The availability of antibiotic therapy has not impacted this statistic. A bacteria called Streptococcus pneumonia is the most common bacterial cause of pneumonia.  It not only causes severe injury to the lung tissue, but can also affect other organs and, in the most severe cases, causes multi organ failure and death.

Death from cardiac causes has been reported to be as high as 15-20% in patients with this bacterial pneumonia and is related to the severity of the pneumonia and the underlying cardiac health of the patient. Pneumococcal bacteria, as well as others, often try to “hide” from the immune system by invading cells.  Some bacteria favor bones and soft tissues. Pneumococcus has a predilection for heart muscle cells.  Most antibiotics used for treatment do not enter the cells and, therefore, may not be effective in controlling an infection. One group of antibiotics, called macrolides, does enter cells and may be more effective in controlling these infections.  Heart muscle cells are damaged by the invasion of the bacteria and it often leads to scars and decreased heart function that is long lasting.

Preventing cell invasion by bacteria, such as Streptococcus pneumonia, is difficult because of the rapid onset of infection.  By the time the infection is realized and confirmed invasion may already have taken place.

Vaccination against these bacteria is available and important. Be sure you get vaccinated.