Why do people get pneumonia?
Why do some people get more than others?
The answer is complex and can be attributed to genetics, environment, and exposure to certain toxins, according to a new study.
“The genetic component is probably the most significant factor,” said lead author David H. Miller, PhD, professor of biological sciences at the University of Kentucky, who is also a professor of architectural design.
“It has to do with the environment in which we live and the time of day.”
In the study, Miller and his colleagues used the National Center for Biotechnology Information’s (NCBI) National Microbiome Atlas to identify genes involved in pneumonia, and then looked at how genes changed over time in the brains of those who had contracted pneumonia.
The researchers identified genes that are involved in immunity and inflammation and which are known to be important for inflammation and immunity.
The findings, which appear online Feb. 10 in Science, suggest that people who contract pneumonia might be more susceptible to the development of the illness, Miller said.
“When we’re exposed to toxins and get them into the blood, they can have profound effects on the brain,” he said.
This is the first study to examine the genes involved with pneumonia, he said, and suggests that genes that affect inflammation and immune function may also play a role in the development and progression of pneumonia.
“There’s a big genetic component here,” Miller said, explaining that the immune system is a complex system that is involved in everything from combating pathogens to helping our body fight infections.
This complex system includes many different genes, and there are a variety of different types of cells and tissues.
In this study, the researchers identified gene mutations that may cause inflammation in the immune response, which may then lead to the inflammation.
They also found that some of the genes that were related to inflammation in inflammation were also linked to the evolution of the lungs and respiratory system.
“We think these genes are associated with inflammation, and inflammation leads to disease,” Miller explained.
“If there’s a disease that’s causing inflammation, then that’s going to increase the risk of developing pneumonia.”
The researchers looked at gene mutations in more than 300,000 people, and found that mutations in genes associated with immune function and inflammation were linked to pneumonia.
For example, people who have mutations in the gene that regulates immune function or inflammation were more likely to have pneumonia, regardless of the type of pneumonia they had.
This association remained after controlling for other risk factors such as smoking, physical activity, socioeconomic status, and other risk variables.
“These mutations have the potential to affect a lot of different parts of the immune and respiratory systems,” Miller noted.
“Some of these genes may play a key role in inflammatory disorders.”
The study suggests that mutations to one or more of the inflammatory genes are the key to determining whether someone has pneumonia.
If the immune systems function normally, the mutation is harmless.
If it’s mutated, however, the immune responses may not be as effective and it may cause pneumonia, Miller noted, adding that some researchers believe that inflammation is a precursor to the disease.
“But you also have to ask, how do we understand this?
And what are the mechanisms involved?”
Miller said as more studies are done on the immune cells and the inflammatory processes in the lungs, lungs, and brain, and on the role of inflammation in pneumonia.
Miller is also an author of a paper about lung function that will appear in an upcoming issue of the journal Science.
The research was supported by the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation.