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Pneumonia is a serious infection or inflammation of the lungs. The air sacs in the lungs fill with pus and other liquids. Oxygen has trouble reaching your blood. If there is too little oxygen in your blood, your body cells can’t work properly. Because of this, combined with spread of infection through the body, pneumonia can cause death.
Until 1936, pneumonia was the number one cause of death in the United States, although, since then, use of antibiotics brought it under control.
Nevertheless, in 1997, pneumonia and influenza combined ranked as the sixth leading causes of death.
Pneumonia affects your lungs in two ways. Lobar pneumonia affects a section (lobe) of a lung. Bronchial pneumonia (or bronchopneumonia) affects patches throughout both lungs.
Pneumonia is not a single disease. It can have over 30 different causes. There are five main causes of pneumonia:
¦ Other infectious agents, such as fungi, including pneumocystis.
¦ Various chemicals.
Bacterial pneumonia remains one of the leading causes of death and disability in the elderly. Bacterial pneumonia can attack anyone from infants through the very old. Alcoholics, the debilitated, post-operative patients, people with respiratory diseases or viral infections and people who have weakened immune systems are at greater risk.
Pneumonia bacteria are present in some healthy throats. When body defenses are weakened in some way, by illness, old age, malnutrition, general debility or impaired immunity, the bacteria can multiply and cause serious damage. Usually, when a person’s resistance is lowered, bacteria work their way into the lungs and inflame the air sacs. The infection quickly spreads through the bloodstream and the whole body is invaded.
Research performed with various types of beta-glucans has established that it is effective in combating lung infections in animal models—against both Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacterial strains.
In a 1983 laboratory study, beta-glucan was studied in rats and mice to determine its protective capacity in respiratory infections. Beta-glucan was administered intravenously to the rodents prior to infection with aerosolized bacterial strains, including Staphylococcus aureus and Klebsiella pneumoniae.
Gram-negative bacilli such as Klebsiella pneumoniae account for less than two percent of community-acquired pneumonias, but they do account for most hospital-acquired (nosocomial) pneumonias, including fatal ones. Beta-glucan was shown to be effective against both bacilli. “Glucan-treated rats had significantly increased rates of phagocytosis and killing of Staphylococcus aureus immediately after infection…” note the researchers. “In contrast, pulmonary killing of Klebsiella pneumoniae in rats was markedly enhanced by glucan at [four hours]…. Histological studies demonstrated greatly increased numbers of macrophages in the lungs of glucan-treated rats; the lungs of glucan-treated mice appeared normal. That results show that glucan can enhance intrapulmonary bacterial killing. In rats, this is due to the ability of glucan to increase the number of lung macrophages resulting in increased bacterial ingestion.”