Two common drugs, Accolate and Singulair, may do more than treat asthma and allergies. Our Thomas J. Braciale, MD, PhD, and Amber Cardani, PhD, have found that the drugs also may prevent the flu from turning into a deadly form of pneumonia.
Flu doesn’t usually make its way deep into the lower respiratory tract, but when it does, it can be particularly deadly. Up to 40 percent of patients who develop influenza pneumonia will die from it. Because the flu is a virus, rather than a bacteria, antibiotics are useless against it. So it would be a tremendous advance if we could prevent influenza from turning into pneumonia in the first place.
Once the flu makes it deep into the lungs, it can prevent immune cells called macrophages from doing their jobs. That allows the virus to infect important cells that allow us to exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide. This can result in the death of those critical cells — and, possibly, the death of the patient.
But Dr. Braciale and Dr. Cardani’s work suggests that administering Accolate or Singulair early on, before the flu has turned into pneumonia, could save the cells from infection. They’ve been examining the effects of the drugs in mice, but they are eager to examine the effects in people. For their next steps, they intend to determine if patients who were on Accolate or Singulair were less likely to develop influenza pneumonia during flu outbreaks.
Let’s wish them the best of luck.