- Pope Francis has been hospitalized for a respiratory infection.
- There are many different kinds of seasonal viruses, including rhinovirus, RSV, and bacterial pneumonia, that can cause an infection in the respiratory tract.
- The pope may have a greater risk of serious disease since he previously had part of a lung removed.
Pope Francis was hospitalized for a respiratory infection on Wednesday after experiencing difficulty breathing this week.
The pope, who is 86, had part of a lung removed due to a respiratory infection when he was younger, which may have reduced his lung function and increased his risk for serious disease.
He doesn’t have COVID-19, and although his condition is improving with treatment, the pope will likely remain in the hospital for several days, spokesman Matteo Bruni said in a statement.
There are many different kinds of seasonal viruses, including rhinovirus, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), and bacterial pneumonia, that can cause an infection in the respiratory tract.
Age is one of the biggest
“Although these viruses usually cause the common cold, sometimes they can send older adults to the hospital,” Dr. Lauren Ferrante, a Yale Medicine pulmonologist and assistant professor of pulmonary, critical care and sleep medicine at Yale School of Medicine, told Healthline.
Dr. Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins University Center for Health Security and an infectious disease expert, says there are numerous respiratory infections that have the capacity to send someone to the hospital, including influenza, rhinovirus, RSV, and pneumococcal pneumonia.
The pope may have a greater risk of serious disease since he previously had part of a lung removed.
“Having just one lung would lower the threshold for a respiratory infection to impact oxygenation,” Adalja said.
That said, Ferrante doesn’t expect this to have a major impact on the pope’s recovery.
“The surgery would not have been done if the rest of his lung(s) could not maintain his pulmonary function, so hopefully his trajectory of recovery will not be that different than a person with two intact lungs,” Ferrante said.
Older adults tend to have weaker coughs, which allows more pathogens to enter the lower respiratory tract, Adalja said.
In addition, older adults often have
As a result, respiratory infections in older adults are associated with
“Aging affects the immune system, which can limit one’s ability to fight off an infection. Sometimes, this can result in an older adult not being able to fight off a respiratory infection at home, with help from their doctor, and they may end up needing hospitalization,” says Ferrante.
Bacterial respiratory infections — like Streptococcus pneumonia — can be treated with antibiotics.
Antibiotics don’t work for viral infections. However, some types of viral infections — like flu or COVID-19 — can be treated with antivirals, says Ferrante.
In certain cases, supportive care, like supplemental oxygen, may be used, says Adalja.
Fluids, antihistamines, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can be given as well, as long as there are no contraindications with other medications the patient takes.
“For any of these infections, it is also important for the person to rest and check in with their doctor to ensure that they are recovering as expected,” she said.
Pope Francis was hospitalized for a respiratory infection on Wednesday after experiencing difficulty breathing this week. The pope, age 86, doesn’t have COVID-19, and although his condition is improving with treatment, he will likely remain in the hospital for several days. Respiratory infections tend to be more serious in older adults due to comorbid conditions and weaker immune systems, however, treatment and supportive care can aid in recovery.