LUMC researchers Gert Grunfeld and Mike Zweitz. (Photo: LUMC).
Leiden, March 28, 2022, 2:05 pm By Editors
In a joint study, researchers from Leiden University Medical Center (LUMC) and the University of Edinburgh discovered that infection with the influenza virus in addition to infection with the Coronavirus can worsen a patient’s condition. Their findings recently appeared in The Lancet.
“In the past two years, we have regularly seen patients with COVID-19 become critically ill, sometimes resulting in IC and ventilator admissions,” says Mike Sweets, a doctoral candidate in the Department of Infectious Diseases at LUMC and the University of Edinburgh. It was already known that infection with influenza, the virus that causes influenza, can lead to a similar condition. But little is known about the consequences of double infection with SARS-CoV-2 and influenza or other respiratory viruses.
Sweets’ research results show that patients who also contracted the influenza virus in addition to the coronavirus were doing much worse than patients who only contracted the coronavirus. For example, they needed to be ventilated in the ICU earlier and had a higher chance of dying. “This could have significant implications for patient, hospital, and ICU capacity during seasons when both SARS-CoV-2 and influenza are common, and possibly for vaccination strategies,” says Swets.
According to Swets, the collaboration between LUMC and the University of Edinburgh was of great importance in laying the foundations for our discoveries. The doctoral student and her colleagues used the ISARIC4C database as their primary source of information. “This database is comprehensive and contains information from more than 300,000 patients admitted with COVID-19 at 300 UK hospitals.”
While it is relatively uncommon for people to become infected with several pathogens at the same time, the number of people infected with more than one infection is expected to increase. Especially during periods when different viruses are common. Swets explains: “This may have been less during the Corona pandemic due to the one-and-a-half policy, self-isolation and mouth masks. If there are no more corona measures and we enter flu season, it could lead to an increase in the incidence of double infection. So it is important that the consequences of this be known. So that we can respond to clinical needs.” Additionally, according to Swets, this study underscores the importance of testing for both viruses in the hospital.
LUMC Principal Investigator, Gert Grunfeld, also emphasized the importance of prevention. “Protection from coronavirus and influenza virus is particularly important for people at risk. The combined protection of this at-risk group should be improved, for example, by adjusting the national vaccination campaign accordingly.”
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