Interactions between influenza and bacterial respiratory pathogens: implications for pandemic preparedness

Lancet Infect Dis. 2006 May;6(5):303-12. doi: 10.1016/S1473-3099(06)70466-2.


It is commonly believed that the clinical and epidemiological characteristics of the next influenza pandemic will mimic those of the 1918 pandemic. Determinative beliefs regarding the 1918 pandemic include that infections were expressed as primary viral pneumonias and/or acute respiratory distress syndrome, that pandemic-related deaths were the end states of the natural progression of disease caused by the pandemic strain, and that bacterial superinfections caused relatively fewer deaths in 1918 than in subsequent pandemics. In turn, response plans are focused on developing and/or increasing inventories of a strain-specific vaccine, antivirals, intensive care beds, mechanical ventilators, and so on. Yet, there is strong and consistent evidence of epidemiologically and clinically important interactions between influenza and secondary bacterial respiratory pathogens, including during the 1918 pandemic. Countermeasures (eg, vaccination against pneumococcal and meningococcal disease before a pandemic; mass uses of antibiotic(s) with broad spectrums of activity against common bacterial respiratory pathogens during local epidemics) designed to prevent or mitigate the effects of influenza-bacterial interactions should be major focuses of pandemic-related research, prevention, and response planning.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bacterial Infections / complications
  • Bacterial Infections / epidemiology*
  • Bacterial Infections / mortality
  • Bacterial Infections / prevention & control
  • Disease Outbreaks / prevention & control*
  • Health Planning*
  • Humans
  • Influenza, Human / complications
  • Influenza, Human / epidemiology*
  • Influenza, Human / mortality
  • Influenza, Human / prevention & control
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / complications
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / epidemiology*
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / mortality
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / prevention & control