The older population is prone to microbial infections, which can lead to death. Hence, it is important to understand why this group is vulnerable to microbial infection, especially bacterial infection. A recent Scientific Reports study linked data from two sources to understand the determining factors for microbial infection in the older population in the UK.
The prevalence of bacterial infection significantly increases with age. According to English surveillance data, the incidence of Escherichia coli (E. coli) bacteria is around ten times more in men who are between 45 and 64 years of age and around 100 times more in men above 75 years of age, compared to the younger age group, i.e., those between 15 and 44 years of age. Similar trends were observed with Staphylococcus aureus, Streptococcus pneumoniae, and Streptococcus pyogenes bacteria.
Currently, there is no clear explanation for why older individuals are more vulnerable to microbial infections. Nevertheless, environmental risk factors, such as nutrition, lifestyle, and housing, have been deemed possible contributing factors. In addition, the levels of C reactive proteins (CRP) could contribute to individual infection risk.
Serological studies have indicated that aging is associated with a gradual decrease in adaptive immunity, i.e., T-cell responses and antibody levels, which leads to an increase in pneumococcal pneumonia and herpes zoster infections.
In addition to radiological imaging, microbiological sampling (e.g., blood, urine, sputum, peritoneal fluid, and cerebrospinal fluid) can also be used to diagnose an infection by identifying the causal organism of the infection. In England, microbiological specimens are typically processed in hospital laboratories under the National Health Service.
About the Study
The current study used a large-scale population cohort, namely the UK Biobank (UKB), to understand the determining factors of bacterial infection and how it influences subsequent health-related problems.
UKB is a prospective cohort that contains information on around 500,000 men and women aged between 40 and 69 between 2006 and 2010. Initially, this cohort was designed to evaluate the environmental and genetic determinants that lead to common life-threatening diseases.
Public Health England (PHE) has established a second-generation surveillance system (SGSS) to monitor and improve public health. The SGSS dataset contains regularly updated information on human pathogens, such as Campylobacter, Salmonella, and other foodborne pathogens. Additionally, it contains antimicrobial test reports against important pathogens.
The current study demonstrated the possibility of linking UKB prospective cohort data with a national dataset containing information on microbial culture in England (SGSS).