Pneumonia may be responsible for most COVID-19 deaths, Northwestern U finds

A new study found a high percentage of COVID-19 deaths may have been caused by a secondary pneumonia infection.

The study, published in The Journal of Clinical Investigation, used machine learning to analyze the medical records of 585 patients who were mechanically ventilated with severe pneumonia and respiratory failure. Of the patients, 190 had COVID-19. The algorithm found that unsuccessfully treated ventilator-associated pneumonia has a 76.4 percent mortality rate compared with successfully treated infections (17.6 percent).

"Our study highlights the importance of preventing, looking for, and aggressively treating secondary bacterial pneumonia in critically ill patients with severe pneumonia, including those with COVID-19," Benjamin Singer, MD, a pulmonologist at Chicago-based Northwestern Medicine, told Science Alert on May 11. "Our data suggested that the mortality related to the virus itself is relatively low, but other things that happen during the ICU stay, like secondary bacterial pneumonia, offset that."

The findings refute the theory of a cytokine storm, an overwhelming inflammation response caused by organ failure, following COVID-19 since there was no evidence of multiorgan failure in the patients studied, Science Alert reported.


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