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Investment in new diagnostics and treatments will reduce deaths from pneumonia

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The World Lung Foundation (WLF) called for greater investment in innovation and a focus on improving healthcare provision – particularly in low income countries – to reduce the global toll of pneumonia. According to WLF’s Acute Respiratory Infections Atlas (http://www.ariatlas.org/understanding_aris/pneumonia), an estimated 156 million new cases of pneumonia occur every year, 97 percent of them in the world’s poorest countries. 74% of those cases occur in just 15 countries, mostly in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, with 43 million cases in India alone.

Pneumonia is the primary cause of death of children under the age of five, killing
more children than AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined. Around 1.1 million
child deaths were caused by pneumonia in 2012, representing 17 per cent of total
deaths of children under five.

Pneumonia causes and effects

Pneumonia occurs when the sacs of the lungs, known as alveoli, become filled with  pus and fluid, limiting oxygen intake and making it hard to breathe. A bacterial or viral pathogen can be the primary cause of pneumonia, or it can be a complication of other infections, including influenza, measles, tuberculosis, or HIV. In vulnerable populations, pneumonia is a disease of poverty and occurs most commonly when a child’s still-developing defense system is weakened by malnutrition, air pollution, co-infections with HIV/AIDS and measles, or low birthweight. In wealthier nations, adults over 65 years old and people with chronic health problems bear the greater burden of pneumonia. Seven to 13 percent of pneumonia cases are severe enough to require hospitalization.

Dr. Neil Schluger, Chief Scientific Officer, World Lung Foundation, said: “In the
past two decades, governments and the global health community have made significant
progress in reducing the global toll of pneumonia. However, such a preventable and
treatable illness still is far too common among the most vulnerable in our society,
particularly children under the age of five in the places with the fewest health
resources. “Adopting a three-fold approach will help us make further progress. First, we need to do more to reduce infection through encouraging simple hygiene, reducing indoor
air pollution and increasing resistance to infection through breastfeeding and
improved nutrition. Second, we need to scale up access to existing antibiotics,
vaccines and oxygen systems. Children in countries that do not have access to
vaccines are 40 times more likely to die than those living in countries that
administer the vaccines routinely. Finally, we need to better support the diagnosis
and treatment of pneumonia by investing in innovative diagnostic tools and
treatments. Hundreds of thousands of lives could be saved every year – if we make a
concerted effort.”

About World Lung Foundation
World Lung Foundation was established in response to the global epidemic of lung
disease, which kills 10 million people each year. The organization also works on
maternal and infant mortality reduction initiatives. WLF improves global health by
improving local health capacity, by supporting operational research, by developing
public policy and by delivering public education. The organization’s areas of
emphasis are tobacco control, indoor air pollution, tuberculosis, acute respiratory
infections and asthma. Please visit worldlungfoundation.org.

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