Vaccine reduces over-65 pneumonia

A new study conducted under leadership from UMC Utrecht has discovered that the chance for the elderly to develop lung infections can be greatly reduced by a vaccine. 

Around 85,000 people took part in the study, which showed the working of a vaccine against different variations of the pneumococcal bacteria with Dutch people over the age of 65.

It is the largest well-controlled study into the workings of a vaccine in an adult in the world that has ever been performed on adults.

The prime goal of the 'Community-Acquired Pneumonia Immunization Trial in Adults' (CAPiTA) study, which is placebo-controlled, was to look at the workings of an existing vaccine (Prevenar-13) against 13 different types of the most important catalyst of lung infection (Streptococcus pneumoniae) in the elderly.

A predecessor of the vaccine, Prevenar-7, has been available in the Netherlands since 2006, to prevent lung infections in children. Successor Prevenar-13 came onto the market in the Netherlands (and other European countries) as a promising vaccine, but until now there has been no sufficient research into its effects on the elderly.

"We are very happy with the results of the CAPiTA study because now, for the first time, there is indisputable evidence that an important part of the lung infection in the elderly can be prevented by vaccination", professor Dr. Marc Bonten, research leader of the study and bound to the UMC Utrecht said.

Pneumonia is an infection of the alveoli and the surrounding tissues, and is often caused by an infection of the Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria. When the illness isn't dealt with soon, the alveoli can be weakened so that the lung capacity is reduced, which can kill the patient.

Every year, there are about 150 million cases of lung infection, and globally it is responsible for more than 4 million deaths per year. The illness usually follows as a complication from other disorders, or when a patient's immune system is already weakened due to other circumstances. Although lung infections are a leading cause of death in all stages of life, children and the elderly are the most vulnerable, and are usual victims.

More detailed results of the CAPiTA research will be presented on 12 March 2014 during the International Symposium on Pneumococci and Pneumococcal Diseases (ISPPD) in Hyderabad, India.