Pneumococcal Infections and COVID: Can a COVID-19 Infection Cause a Pneumococcal Co-Infection?
As children, we were all taught to wait our turn and have good manners. Unfortunately, pathogens don’t play by these rules. In general, any viral respiratory infection or other illnesses can increase the risk of bacterial infections. Therefore, a viral infection such as COVID-19 can happen together with a pneumococcal infection — diseases caused by the Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria, such as pneumonia1.
Why Does This Occur?
Typically, a weakened or compromised immune system makes people more vulnerable to infections. Lack of sleep, poor diet, and high stress levels are just a few things that can weaken our immune system. People with chronic diseases such as diabetes or cancer are often considered immunocompromised2.
Exposure to viruses and bacteria happens through contact with contaminated objects, air, or infected individuals. When someone with a weakened immune system is exposed to these things, pathogens have an easier time getting into the body and cause an infection.
When a certain pathogen enters the body, it makes it easier for other pathogens to follow — much like leaving a door open. This is why health organizations encourage precautions such as social distancing and mask-wearing. These measures not only help prevent the spread of disease but protect infected individuals from getting more sick3.
Find out if you are at risk for pneumococcal infections by answering this short quiz:
Before COVID-19 existed, influenza and pneumococcal infections were the duo to watch out for1. However, now that COVID-19 has taken the stage, how does it relate to S. pneumoniae infections? What is the connection between pneumococcal infections and COVID?
While available data on COVID-19 and pneumococcal co-infections show a lower number of cases compared to influenza and pneumococcal co-infections, it is associated with higher fatalities4.