Anesthesia may help combat lung infections, study finds

Inhaled anesthetics have been used for over a century and have made modern surgery possible, but new research suggests they can also combat viral and bacterial infections in the lungs.

To examine just how some inhaled anesthetic drugs affect viral and bacterial infections, a team composed of researchers from Johns Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore and the University of Buffalo (N.Y.) exposed mice to the influenza virus and Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria.

The team found that volatile anesthetics, such as halothane, boosted the anti-bacterial immune response after an influenza viral infection by blocking specific chemical signals that help regulate the activity of the immune system.

Ultimately, the anesthetics give to the mice were linked to a decrease in bacterial burden and fewer lung injuries following flu or pneumonia infections.

Krishnan Chakravarthy, MD, PhD, one of the leaders of the study, said the results give researchers more information about how volatile anesthetics affect the immune system, which is crucial given how often they are used in the operating room. Dr. Chakravarthy also suggested these drugs may someday help fight outbreaks.

"A therapy based on these inhaled drugs may help deal with new viral and bacterial strains that are resistant to conventional vaccines and treatments and could be a game changer in terms of our preparedness for future pandemics and seasonal flu outbreaks because it's focusing on host immunity," said Dr. Chakravarthy. 



More articles on infections:
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