To use or not to use corticosteroids for pneumonia? A clinician's perspective

Struttura Complessa Pneumologia, Azienda Ospedaliero-Universitaria "Ospedali Riuniti" di Trieste, Ospedale di Cattinara, Trieste, Italy.
Monaldi archives for chest disease = Archivio Monaldi per le malattie del torace / Fondazione clinica del lavoro, IRCCS [and] Istituto di clinica tisiologica e malattie apparato respiratorio, Università di Napoli, Secondo ateneo 06/2012; 77(2):94-101. DOI: 10.4081/monaldi.2012.157
Source: PubMed


The use of corticosteroids in the management of pneumonia is still a controversial issue. The physicians in daily clinical practice often use corticosteroids in patients with pneumonia for different reasons all over the world. As an example of real life is the frequent use of corticosteroids to treat patients with pneumonia due to H1N1 pandemic influenza in spite of WHO' statements that clearly discouraged this therapy. In fact, the literature up to august 2012 reported a total of 6,650 patients with pneumonia due to H1N1 virus infection (of whom 2,515 were ICU patients): corticosteroids were used with various dose regimen in 2404 patients (37.8%). The attitude of international guidelines on pneumonia in using steroids do not help the clinician to clearly choice when and how to treat pneumonia with steroids. However, stress doses of corticosteroids are suggested by some major guidelines on community-acquired pneumonia in case of severe episodes with sepsis. To date, there are 10 randomised controlled trials assessing the effectiveness of corticosteroids for community-acquired pneumonia globally involving 1090 participants. Most of the trials adopted stress doses of glucorticoids for 4-7 days. The evidence from these trials taken separately is weak due to limitations of the studies themselves, but a Cochrane review and a systematic review found benefit using prolonged low doses of glucocorticoids in severe community-acquired pneumonia. Moreover, such a strategy decreases vasopressor dependency and appears to be safe. Nevertheless, larger trials with more patients and clinically important end-points were claimed to provide robust evidence. Finally, infection surveillance is critical in patients treated with corticosteroids, and to prevent the rebound phenomenon, the drug should be weaned slowly.

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    • "Although confusion, co-infection and gastrointestinal side effects were reported in association with glucocorticoid treatment, the incidence was not significantly higher in the steroid group [16]. While some authors advise five days of glucocorticoid treatment in critically ill patients without tapering [49-51], others recommend tapering of glucocorticoids to avoid a rebound of inflammatory markers with consecutive rebound pneumonia [37,45,46,52]. However, it has been shown that glucocorticoids given > seven days lead to a worse clinical course measured by length of stay, clinical stability and mechanical ventilation, and more systemic complications when looking at shock and cardiac arrhythmia [53]. "
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    ABSTRACT: Background Community-acquired pneumonia (CAP) is the third-leading infectious cause of death worldwide. The standard treatment of CAP has not changed for the past fifty years and its mortality and morbidity remain high despite adequate antimicrobial treatment. Systemic corticosteroids have anti-inflammatory effects and are therefore discussed as adjunct treatment for CAP. Available studies show controversial results, and the question about benefits and harms of adjunct corticosteroid therapy has not been conclusively resolved, particularly in the non-critical care setting. Methods/Design This randomized multicenter study compares a treatment with 7 days of prednisone 50 mg with placebo in adult patients hospitalized with CAP independent of severity. Patients are screened and enrolled within the first 36 hours of presentation after written informed consent is obtained. The primary endpoint will be time to clinical stability, which is assessed every 12 hours during hospitalization. Secondary endpoints will be, among others, all-cause mortality within 30 and 180 days, ICU stay, duration of antibiotic treatment, disease activity scores, side effects and complications, value of adrenal function testing and prognostic hormonal and inflammatory biomarkers to predict outcome and treatment response to corticosteroids. Eight hundred included patients will provide an 85% power for the intention-to-treat analysis of the primary endpoint. Discussion This largest to date double-blind placebo-controlled multicenter trial investigates the effect of adjunct glucocorticoids in 800 patients with CAP requiring hospitalization. It aims to give conclusive answers about benefits and risks of corticosteroid treatment in CAP. The inclusion of less severe CAP patients will be expected to lead to a relatively low mortality rate and survival benefit might not be shown. However, our study has adequate power for the clinically relevant endpoint of clinical stability. Due to discontinuing glucocorticoids without tapering after seven days, we limit duration of glucocorticoid exposition, which may reduce possible side effects. Trial registration 7 September 2009 on NCT00973154.
    Full-text · Article · Jun 2014 · Trials
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    • "Furthermore, corticosteroid therapy in patients with pandemic (H1N1) 2009 virus infection was shown to be associated with higher mortality than that without steroid treatment [52], suggesting that corticosteroid therapy might be hazardous as shown in mice infected with H5N1 highly pathogenic avian influenza virus [53]. These results suggest that anti-inflammatory drugs broadly used in humans do not necessarily suppress inflammation and the cytokine storm (hypercytokinemia) [54]. Therefore, development of other types of anti-hypercytokinemia treatment rather than anti-inflammatory drugs is required for immunocompromised patients with influenza virus infection and for patients with highly pathogenic avian influenza virus infection [55,56]. "
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    ABSTRACT: Pandemic (H1N1) 2009 influenza virus spread throughout the world since most people did not have immunity against the virus. In the post pandemic phase when many humans might possess immunity against the pandemic virus, one of the concerns is infection in immunocompromised people. Therefore, we used an immunosuppressed macaque model to examine pathogenicity of the pandemic (H1N1) 2009 virus under an immunocompromised condition. The virus in nasal samples of immunosuppressed macaques infected with the pandemic (H1N1) 2009 virus was detected longer after infection than was the virus in nasal samples of immunocompetent macaques. As expected, not only virus amounts but also virus propagation sites in the immunosuppressed macaques were larger than those in lungs of the immunocompetent macaques when they were infected with the pandemic virus. Immunosuppressed macaques possessed low levels of immune cells producing cytokines and chemokines, but levels of inflammatory cytokines/chemokine interleukin (IL)-6, IL-18, and monocyte chemotactic protein (MCP)-1 in lungs of the immunosuppressed macaques were higher than those in lungs of the immunocompetent macaques, though the differences were not statistically significant. Therefore, under an immunosuppressive condition, the pandemic influenza (H1N1) 2009 virus might cause more severe morbidity with high cytokine/chemokine production by the host innate immune system than that seen in macaques under the immunocompetent condition.
    Full-text · Article · Sep 2013 · PLoS ONE
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    ABSTRACT: Since December 2011, influenza virologists and biosecurity experts have been engaged in a controversial debate over research on the transmissibility of H5N1 influenza viruses. Influenza virologists disagreed with the NSABB's recommendation not to publish experimental details of their findings, whereas biosecurity experts wanted the details to be withheld and future research restricted. The virologists initially declared a voluntary moratorium on their work, but later the NSABB allowed their articles to be published, and soon transmissibility research will resume. Throughout the debate, both sides have had understandable views, but both have overlooked the more important question of whether anything could be done if one of these experimentally derived viruses or a naturally occurring and highly virulent influenza virus should emerge and cause a global pandemic. This is a crucial question, because during the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic, more than 90% of the world's people had no access to timely supplies of affordable vaccines and antiviral agents. Observational studies suggest that inpatient statin treatment reduces mortality in patients with laboratory-confirmed seasonal influenza. Other immunomodulatory agents (glitazones, fibrates and AMPK agonists) improve survival in mice infected with influenza viruses. These agents are produced as inexpensive generics in developing countries. If they were shown to be effective, they could be used immediately to treat patients in any country with a basic health care system. For this reason alone, influenza virologists and biosecurity experts need to join with public health officials to develop an agenda for laboratory and clinical research on these agents. This is the only approach that could yield practical measures for a global response to the next influenza pandemic.
    Full-text · Article · Feb 2013 · Human Vaccines & Immunotherapeutics
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