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How Effective Is Vancomycin for Pneumonia?

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  • Written By: Lee Johnson
  • Edited By: John Allen
  • Last Modified Date: 10 September 2014
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Using vancomycin for pneumonia is an effective treatment overall, but other treatments are recommended before the drug is considered. The reason for this is that other drug treatments are equally or more suitable for most cases of pneumonia, having an 80 percent chance of curing the condition. Vancomycin is therefore only recommended for cases when the condition is resistant to other forms of treatment. Most cases of pneumonia are responsive to antibiotics in general, so the use of vancomycin is not usually necessary. If doctors chose to use vancomycin regularly for the treatment of pneumonia, the bacteria which cause the condition could become resistant to the drug’s effects and therefore become more difficult to treat.

Overall, the use of vancomycin for pneumonia is effective. This is because vancomycin is an antibiotic, along with other treatments such as doxycycline. Any antibiotic treatment has around an 80 percent chance of curing bacterial pneumonia, and this means that using one specific drug to treat all cases is unnecessary. In line with this general effectiveness of drugs in the same class, vancomycin can cure most cases of pneumonia.

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When antibiotics are frequently used to fight bacterial infections like pneumonia, the bacteria can essentially evolve to be resistant to the treatment. This means that first-line drug treatments for problems such as this cease to work eventually. For this reason, the standard treatments used to treat infections do not always have an effect because the bacteria have become resistant. In these situations, vancomycin is often used as a back-up treatment, which the bacteria are not resistant to. Using vancomycin for pneumonia is only recommended in these situations.

Doctors could choose to use vancomycin to treat pneumonia caused by bacteria all of the time. Logically, since bacteria are not generally resistant against it, it could be considered a better treatment than the others, which bacteria are resistant to. This line of reasoning unfortunately has a fatal flaw, in that frequent use of vancomycin for pneumonia would give the bacteria a chance to become resistant to it. If doctors always used vancomycin, bacteria would “evolve” and cease to be affected by it. To ensure the continued effectiveness of the treatment, doctors only use it when absolutely necessary.

Patients suspected to be suffering from bacterial meningitis or critically ill children may be treated with vancomycin. These are special situations in which vancomycin is more likely to be effective. In the case of patients suffering from bacterial meningitis and pneumonia, the drug is generally effective against meningitis, so it makes it a more suitable treatment for the patient as a whole. Children who are critically ill may be treated with vancomycin for pneumonia to eliminate the risk of the bacteria being resistant to the other treatments and therefore allowing their condition to degenerate.

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