Some volatile anesthetics that are used during surgeries may also posses powerful effects on the immune system that can combat viral and bacterial infections in the lungs, such as influenza and pneumonia, says researchers, including an Indian-origin.
The findings suggest that volatile anesthetics may someday be helpful for combating seasonal and pandemic influenza, particularly when there are flu vaccine shortages or limitations.
"A therapy based on these inhaled drugs may help deal with new viral and bacterial strains that are resistant to conventional vaccines and treatments," said Krishnan Chakravarthy, resident physician in the department of anesthesiology and critical care medicine at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Maryland, US.
To examine just how some inhaled anesthetic drugs affect viral and bacterial infections, the researchers exposed mice to both influenza virus and Streptococcus pneumonia bacteria.
The team discovered that giving the animals volatile anesthetics, such as halothane, led to decreased bacterial burden and lung injury following infection.
The anesthetics augmented the anti-bacterial immune response after influenza viral infection by blocking chemical signaling that involves type-I interferon, a group of proteins that help regulate the activity of the immune system, the study said.
Animals that were exposed to halothane had 450-fold less viable bacteria compared with non-halothane exposed animals, the findings showed.
"We hope our study opens the door to the development of new drugs and therapies that could change the infectious disease landscape," Chakravarthy noted.
The findings appeared in the journal Anesthesiology.