In medical terminology lung inflammation is called pneumonia. This condition can occur due to a variety of bacterial, viral, fungal as well as chemical factors. Pneumonia can prove to be a serious, life-threatening condition, if one does not seek immediate medical attention. The air sacs called alveoli are filled with fluid and pus. This decreases their capacity to take in oxygen and pass it on into the blood capillaries around them. These air sacs also contain dead bacterial and immune cells that further create breathing problems. Soon, the lungs tend to develop severe cough to get rid of the fluid, pus and dead cells in form of mucus. Severe coughing leaves the person breathless, leading to depletion in body oxygen levels. If untreated, it causes muti-organ failure and finally death. Most serious form of pneumonia is the one caused due to bacterial infection.
Types of Bacterial Pneumonia
Medical experts have divided bacterial pneumonia into three types. These three types of bacterial pneumonia are explained as follows:
Gram Positive Bacterial Pneumonia
Gram-positive bacteria have a thick, compact cell wall made up of peptidoglycan. There are different types of gram positive bacteria that cause pneumonia. These include:
Pneumococcal pneumonia is caused by gram positive organism streptococcus pneumoniae. These are round shaped (coccus) bacteria that are found in pairs or short chains. This is the most common causative agent of pneumonia that causes about 80% of all infections. This bacterium is actually a part of the body's natural skin flora. It is found near the mouth and pharynges. When it gains entry into the lungs, especially when the immune system is weak, it leads to a pneumonial infection. The symptoms include cough, chest pain, breathing difficulty, fever, phlegm and occasional streaks of blood in phlegm.
This is another gram positive bacterial pneumonia infection caused by staphylococcus aureus. This is also a round shaped bacteria that occurs in grape like clusters. This bacteria is an opportunistic pathogen that infects the respiratory system after the immune system weakens. However, this bacterium causes secondary infection in the lungs, only after a person falls prey to a debilitating viral infection. The only exception is that the bacteria can infect children under the age of 2 without the presence of an underlying viral infection. The symptoms of staphylococcal pneumonia include cough, chest pain, breathing difficulties, fever, chills and phlegm.
Gram Negative Bacterial Pneumonia
Gram-negative bacteria are those who have a more complex, thinner and less compact cell wall. Most of these gram negative bacteria are covered in a capsule that makes them resistant to the action of antibiotics. Thus, they cause havoc in a person's body as the antibiotics are not able to control the infections successfully. These gram negative bacteria causing pneumonia include:
The organism that causes this type of pneumonia is Pseudomonas aeruginosa. It is a rod-shaped bacteria that is found in soil, water and even on plants and animals. It is an opportunistic pathogen that infects people with compromised immune systems. It is one of the second most common cause of nosocomial pneumonia. As it is resistant to different antibiotics, it is very difficult to treat.
Klebsiella pneumoniae causes Friedlander's pneumonia. This is a facultative anaerobic bacteria that is rod-shaped. It is present as a normal flora of the guts, mouth and skin. It is fast becoming one of the most common causes of nosocomial infections. As it is covered by a capsule, it is resistant to most antibiotics.
The most common cause of pneumonia in children is Haemophilus influenzae. Although named as influenzae, it does not cause flu, but pneumonia. It leads to runny nose, sneezing and collection of fluid around the lungs called 'pleural effect'.
Other gram negative bacteria that cause pneumonia include Moraxella catarrhalis and Escherichia coli.
Atypical Bacterial Pneumonia
The third type of bacterial pneumonia includes atypical. This is because these bacteria generally do not cause pneumonia. Also, these bacteria do not respond to common antibiotics as well as exhibit atypical symptoms in patients. These bacteria include:
- Legionella pneumophila
- Mycoplasma pneumoniae
- Chlamydophila pneumoniae
- Coxiella burnetii
- Chest pain
- Hemoptysis (caused by Pneumococcal pneumonia)
Bacterial pneumonia is very difficult to treat as the bacteria tends to develop resistance to most of the drugs administered. This leads to many health complications like:
The bacteria can infect the blood leading to bacteremia. The infectious organisms get a chance to infect other organs and lead to multi-organ complications.
The bacterial agents can cause build up of fluid between the lungs and pleurae. This fluid accumulation is called empyema. The fluid has to be drained from the chest with the help of a tube.
When antibiotics and medications do not help control the infection, it leads to severe inflammation of the lungs. The oxygen exchange between the air sacs and blood capillaries reduces drastically, leading to muti-organ failure due to lack of sufficient oxygen levels.
The treatment for bacterial pneumonia involves use of antibiotics. Different types of bacterial pneumonia require treatment with different antibiotics. In some cases, the patient has to be kept on a ventilator to support breathing, in the meantime drugs and medication are administered to help the patient's immune system ward off the infection.