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Old Age Is A Risk Factor For Pneumonia Due To The Omicron Variant: Study

A new study has found that old age is an independent risk factor for the development of pneumonia in patients with Omicron variant infection and a history of inactivated vaccine administration [1].

Here's what the study findings had to say:

  • Omicron, which contains at least 35 mutations in the spike protein, has become the dominant variant, making it less sensitive to neutralising antibodies produced by vaccination.
  • The Omicron variant has been associated with increased immune evasion concerns, and the likelihood of obtaining full vaccination coverage and a booster vaccination was quite low in older individuals and patients suffering from chronic comorbidities.
  • The Omicron variant has milder virulence than the other variants of concern; therefore, critically ill patients are less likely to be affected by this variant. Omicron is associated with a lower risk of hospitalisation and a lower prevalence of pneumonia.
  • However, the risk factors for stratifying patients at high risk for pneumonia development are crucial for preventing pneumonia from developing.
  • According to a study, 4 out of 14 children developed pneumonia and two required mechanical ventilation [2].
  • A comparative study also found that male sex, increasing age, and smoking were associated with pneumonia development [3].
  • Pneumonia was also more likely to occur in patients with chronic comorbidities, including obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes, hypertension, kidney disease, and immunosuppression.

The Link Between COVID And Pneumonia

When an individual gets affected by the COVID virus, they develop a cough and fever, as the infection has reached the respiratory tree. These air passages conduct air between the lungs and the outside. The infection then injures the lining of the respiratory tree, leading to inflammation which in turn irritates the nerves in the lining of the airway, causing constant coughing [4].

When worsened, the infection goes past just the lining of the airway and goes to the gas exchange units and infects the air passages, which then respond by pouring out inflammatory material into the air sacs at the bottom of our lungs [5].

This causes the air sacs to become inflamed, leading to the outpouring of inflammatory materials such as fluid and inflammatory cells into the lungs, developing pneumonia [6].

Consequently, lungs that are filled with inflammatory material become unable to get enough oxygen to the bloodstream and hence reduce the body's ability to take on oxygen and get rid of carbon dioxide - the usual cause of death with severe pneumonia.

On A Final Note...

Older patients can be protected from pneumonia and serious COVID-19 with a full vaccination and booster vaccination. However, it's crucial to analyse the risk factors for pneumonia in breakthrough cases with a history of inactivated vaccine injections considering pneumonia is the most common manifestation of COVID-19.

As a result of the study, old age was the only independent risk factor for pneumonia development in patients with Omicron variant infection and a history of inactivated vaccine injections. COVID vaccines available in India do not contain any live viruses, called inactivated vaccines.

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