Eosinophilic pneumonia is a very rare, atypical form of pneumonia that generates lung inflammation, pronounced difficulty in breathing and eosinophilic reactions at pulmonary level. Although the actual causes of eosinophilic pneumonia remain unknown, the accumulation of eosinophils inside the lungs triggered by the disease reveals the infectious character of this type of pneumonia. Eosinophils are a type of white cells that have an important role in fighting infectious agents such as bacteria.
Even though medical scientists haven’t yet identified the specific infectious organisms responsible for causing the disease, it is believed that eosinophilic pneumonia is caused by infection with atypical bacteria. This hypothesis is supported by the unusual eosinophilic response triggered by the disease at pulmonary level. Eosinophilic pneumonia is a severe type of pulmonary disease that generates pronounced impairments of the lower respiratory tract. In the absence of proper medical care, this type of pneumonia can even lead to complete respiratory failure, causing death by asphyxiation.
Due to the fact that eosinophilic pneumonia generates a wide range of physical manifestations and due to the variety of its presumptive underlying causes, the disease is also referred to as a syndrome. The unknown etiology of eosinophilic pneumonia and the scarce amount of data regarding the occurrence and the progression of the disease render medical scientists unable to timely diagnose this syndrome. There is also no effective, specific cure for eosinophilic pneumonia in present. However, medical reports indicate that most patients with eosinophilic pneumonia can be recovered from the disease with existent medication treatments, prompt diagnosis and medical intervention greatly increasing patients’ chances of survival.
Recent medical reports describing the occurrence and the progression of eosinophilic pneumonia among American soldiers deployed in Iraq may also point to an endemic character of the syndrome. Epidemiologists and biologists theorize that eosinophilic pneumonia may be triggered by infectious factors characteristic to certain territorial regions. The epidemic outbreak among the U.S. military personnel recently deployed in Iraq also suggests a highly contagious nature of eosinophilic pneumonia. Medical reports also incriminate factors such as smoking and prolonged exposure to sand and dust as potential underlying causes of the syndrome.
The medical staff that recently accompanied US military personnel during a set of missions in Iraq described a rapid onset of eosinophilic pneumonia in 18 American soldiers. Although there were only 18 cases of eosinophilic pneumonia identified among 180.000 soldiers, the syndrome generated exacerbated symptoms in all affected persons. The majority of patients were men, and the highest incidence of eosinophilic pneumonia was registered among young patients, with an average age of 22.
Although the actual causes of the outbreak are still unknown, doctors established connections between smoking and the occurrence of eosinophilic pneumonia among the 18 members of military personnel. All the affected people were smokers, most of them recently starting to use tobacco. Apart from this common feature, doctors were unable to identify other potential risk factors of the disease. Strangely enough, epidemiologic tests revealed no signs of pulmonary infection, thus discriminating the implication of bacteria in triggering eosinophilic pneumonia. Despite this fact, all patients presented a pronounced eosinophilic response, most of them developing extra-pulmonary eosinophilia as well.
Two of the affected patients eventually died due to complications, while the other patients responded well to prolonged treatment with corticosteroids. Over a period of three months of treatment, very few patients still presented signs of respiratory problems. All 16 patients were completely recovered from the disease after completing the prescribed treatment. None of the patients remained with permanent impairments of the respiratory system and there were no reported cases of relapse.