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Double - Whammy - pneumonia.

Double (whammy) pneumonia

Having viral pneumonia is a seriousmatter, but a combined viral-bacterial pneumonia is considered more threatening, with a fatality rate of up to 42 percent. Searching for an explanation of this double-agent danger, researchers in West Germany have discovered that the bacteria may be giving the viral agent a deadly boost in virulence.

Scientists have known that adding theenzyme trypsin can reactivate viruses that have become noninfectious. Now the West German group has found that an enzyme isolated from culture medium used to grow some types of Staphylococcus aureus bacteria apparently activates several influenza virus strains. Although the bacteria alone are relatively harmless, staphylococcus infection is often found in influenza pneumonia.

When the viruses are treated in vitrowith the S. aureus enzyme, the infectivity is "enhanced at least 100-fold,' according to a report in the Feb. 5 NATURE by scientists at the Institute of Virology at the Justus Liebig University in Giessen and the Institute of Hygiene at the University of Koln. The viruses also are stimulated to undergo multiple growth cycles when the bacterial enzyme is present. This, say the researchers, could explain how the virus spreads in the lungs so rapidly.

Experiments suggest that S. aureus cancleave or cut a protein called hemagglutinin on the viral surface, which could contribute to the observed activation of the virus. The hemagglutinins of viral strains whose infectivity was not activated by the bacterial enzyme were not cleaved by the bacterial enzyme.

Co-infections in laboratory mice usingstrains of influenza virus and S. aureus usually meant death within five days, whereas animals infected with only one of the disease agents survived.
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Title Annotation:viral-bacterial pneumonia
Author:Edwards, Diane D.
Publication:Science News
Date:Feb 14, 1987
Words:270
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