Respiratory infections are one of the main causes of hospitalizations and deaths in the world. Research has shown that respiratory infections kill an estimated 3.9 million people each year. One of the deadliest respiratory illnesses is the seasonal flu. This virus causes approximately 600,000 deaths globally each year.
For many years now, scientists and researchers have been working hard to address respiratory infections. Although we have made some great discoveries over the last few years, such as anti-viral treatments, there is still a lot of work to do before we understand these viruses fully and can treat them properly.
To reduce the number of hospitalizations and deaths from respiratory infections, doctors, researchers, and scientists are increasing their research efforts to develop new vaccines and treatment options. Keep reading below to find out more:
What are Respiratory Infections?
Respiratory tract infections (RTI’s) can affect the throat, sinuses, lungs, or airways. Symptoms of an RTI include:
- A high temperature
- A cough
- A headache
- A runny or stuffy nose
- A sore throat
- Feeling generally unwell
- Tight chest, breathlessness, or wheezing
- Muscle aches
The severity of respiratory illnesses varies greatly, and older patients and young children are much more likely to suffer severe disease.
Common Respiratory Infections
Some of the most common types of respiratory infections found in the world include:
- Influenza – this virus is almost as common as it is contagious. Most people have experienced it at some point in their lives.
- Chest infection – chest infections cause inflammation of the lungs and lower air passages
- Sinusitis – this is often confused with the flu or common cold. It is inflammation in the sinus lining
- Tonsilitis – people who have tonsillitis have swollen tonsils. It is common in children but can also be experienced by adults.
- Common cold – most people experience a cold at least once a year. There is no cure for the common cold.
- Bronchitis – this is an infection of the lower airway. It causes coughing, mucus production, and occasionally wheezy breathing.
- COVID-19 – this virus was first detected in China in December 2019. Since then, this virus has affected people in countries all around the world. Hundreds of thousands of people have died from this deadly virus.
Treatment of RTIs
Evidence suggests that most RTIs get better without treatment. Symptoms usually pass within one to two weeks. You can usually treat symptoms yourself at home by:
- Drinking plenty of water
- Getting lots of rest
- Drinking a honey and lemon drink
- Gargling with warm, salty water
- Raising your head when you are sleeping
- Bringing down a fever using paracetamol or ibuprofen
Although most RTIs can be managed at home, if you feel very unwell, then you should contact a doctor or visit the emergency department. If your symptoms are severe then you may have pneumonia.
Unfortunately, we still have very few vaccines available to prevent RTIs, and very few treatment options available for people who contract them. This is a worrying fact, considering millions of people contract these viruses each year.
As there are so few treatment options and vaccines available for respiratory viruses, research into this area is extremely important. The more we know about these viruses, the more likely we are to be able to treat them.
What is Respiratory Virus Research?
As we mentioned above, acute respiratory infections are a major global public health problem. Despite the progress made over the last few years with the introduction of vaccines, antibiotics, and antivirals, there is no specific intervention for most respiratory infections. These infections continue to cause high levels of morbidity, especially in developing countries. Current practices for treating RTIs are ineffective and can result in adverse consequences.
To create new vaccines and treatments for respiratory viruses, scientists and researchers need to develop a deeper understanding of how the viruses transmit, how they replicate, and how they cause disease. In order to do this, scientists and researchers must complete research into each of the different viruses.
Why is Respiratory Research Important?
Research is important for several reasons. Not only can research lead to significant discoveries and the development of new therapies and treatments but it also plays an important role in making sure doctors and other healthcare professionals use these treatments in the best possible way.
Research can find answers to questions we currently cannot answer, fill gaps in knowledge and change the way we work. Some of the most common aims of research include:
- Diagnosing health problems or diseases
- Preventing the spread of disease and reducing the number of people who become ill with it
- Treat illnesses and improve survival rates
- Increase the number of people who are cured
- Improve the quality of life for people who cannot be cured
Research is an important part of the healthcare system. We all benefit from past research and will continue to benefit from research in the future. Ultimately, all high-quality research helps us to improve future healthcare.
To reduce the number of hospitalizations and deaths caused by respiratory infections, there is an urgent need for more clinical research and basic science. Although our understanding of respiratory viruses has improved considerably over the last few years thanks to a new generation of diagnostic tests, there is still a lot of work to be done if we want to understand them all. In fact, at present, nearly all respiratory infections still do not have specific treatments. Currently, antiviral treatment is only available for influenza infections and this treatment is only recommended for individuals who are young, old, or immunocompromised.