Ventilators may have ‘fuelled’ Covid-19 deaths, a new study finds

Many COVID-19 patients put on ventilators died.

Many COVID-19 patients put on ventilators died.

Published May 15, 2023


Johannesburg - A new analysis-based study by the Northwestern University of Illinois has found that the majority of Covid-19 patients put on ventilators may have suffered secondary bacterial pneumonia.

The study seems to suggest that a high percentage of people who required help from a ventilator due to a Covid-19 infection also developed secondary bacterial pneumonia. It has been reported that this pneumonia was responsible for a higher mortality rate than the Covid-19 infection.

According to Science Alert, a medical newsletter, Northwestern University pulmologist Benjamin Singer is quoted as saying that while Covid-19 may have been responsible for putting these patients in the hospital, it was actually a secondary infection brought on by the use of a mechanical ventilator that was more likely to be the cause of death when this infection didn't respond to treatment.

"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," Singer said.

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.

In 2021, at the height of the pandemic, the National Laboratory of Medicine’s National Centre for Biotechnical Information’s study revealed that the use of mechanical ventilation associated with acute hypoxemic respiratory failure, the most common complication in critically ill Covid-19 patients, posed a high-risk inpatients that required specific consideration of outcomes and treatment practices.

The latest study is reported to have made use of a machine learning approach to go through the data, with researchers having grouped patients based on their condition and the amount of time they spent in intensive care.

The findings went as far as refuting 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. Instead, Covid-19 patients were more likely to develop ventilator-associated pneumonia (VAP) and for longer periods. Cases where VAP didn't respond to treatment were significant in terms of the overall mortality rates in the study," Singer added.

The Star