Most COVID-19 patients who died in the hospital during the early phase of the pandemic were killed as a result of being put on a ventilator, according to a new study.
The analysis, published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation last month, found the majority of COVID patients who required help from a ventilator also developed secondary bacterial pneumonia.
“Our study highlights the importance of preventing, looking for, and aggressively treating secondary bacterial pneumonia in critically ill patients with severe pneumonia, including those with COVID-19,” says Benjamin Singer, a pulmonologist at Northwestern University in Illinois.
From Science Alert:
The team looked at records for 585 people admitted to the intensive care unit (ICU) at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, also in Illinois. They all had severe pneumonia and/or respiratory failure, and 190 had COVID-19.
Using a machine learning approach to crunch through the data, the researchers grouped patients based on their condition and the amount of time they spent in intensive care.
The findings refute the idea that a cytokine storm following COVID-19 – an overwhelming inflammation response causing organ failure – was responsible for a significant number of deaths. There was no evidence of multi-organ failure in the patients studied.
In other words, though COVID-19 may have put these people in the hospital, the secondary infection of bacterial pneumonia after being put on a ventilator was responsible for the higher mortality rate, a condition called Ventilator-Associated Pneumonia (VAP).