Influenza virus and pneumococci bacteria “dance” together.
Most parents know that the Flu vaccine has been proven to reduce the frequency of not only the flu but also ear infections, sinus infections and pneumonia caused by a bacteria called “pneumococcus”. How that happens is becoming clear. Our group has been studying the details of the interaction between Flu virus and pneumococci to unravel the steps in the dance between the flu virus and the pneumococcus in the nose that results in significant respiratory diseases. Pneumococci live in the posterior part of the nose and upper throat as usually peaceful bacteria in all of us, harmlessly present in relatively low numbers. The bacteria are so common that our studies to detect pneumococci in the nose and throat discover their presence in up to 80% of infants and young children and about 20% of adults at any one time. However, the bacteria are harmless in patients that have a competent immune system unless an intercurrent viral upper respiratory infection like a cold or the flu occurs.