Author(s): Meyer KC
Abstract Share this page
Abstract Respiratory tract infections, particularly pneumonia, are a leading cause of death in persons 65 years or older in both developed and developing countries. Because many attributes of immunity wane with advancing age, the elderly may be more susceptible to respiratory infections, even if they appear to be in good health. A decline in the ability of lymphoid tissues to mount an antigen-specific response (adaptive immunity) to specific microorganisms such as influenza virus or Streptococcus pneumoniae is thought to be an important factor in increasing susceptibility to respiratory tract infection with advancing age. However, abnormalities in innate immunity may also contribute to increased susceptibility to respiratory infections and have been poorly characterized in the elderly. Although changes in immune parameters such as T cell subsets and immunoglobulin concentrations have been observed in respiratory secretions from older healthy individuals compared to younger subjects, the significance of these changes for protective immunity in the lung is unknown. The incidence of pneumonia may be lessened by measures such as optimizing treatment of comorbid conditions, optimizing nutrition, and addressing swallowing disorders. The use of vaccines directed against the influenza virus and S. pneumoniae appears to have made an impact on the degree of morbidity and mortality, and perhaps, the incidence, of community-acquired pneumonia. However, better stimulation of specific immune responses with improved vaccines and more widespread use of these vaccines for protection of elderly individuals are needed.
This article was published in Respir Physiol
and referenced in Journal of Genetic Syndromes & Gene Therapy