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Inflammation and solidification of lung tissue caused by infection, foreign particle inhalation, or irradiation but usually by bacteria. Mycoplasma pneumoniae is the most common cause in healthy individuals. The bronchi and alveoli may be inflamed. Coughing becomes severe and may bring up flecks of blood. It can be serious but is rarely fatal. Streptococcus pneumoniae is more common and generally more severe but usually affects only those with low resistance, especially in hospitals. A highly lethal form caused by Klebsiella pneumoniae is almost always confined to hospitalized patients with low immunity. Other bacterial pneumonias include Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia (rare except in AIDS) and Legionnaire disease. Most respond to antibiotic treatment. Viruses set the stage for bacterial pneumonia by weakening the individual's immune system more often than they cause pneumonia directly. Fungal pneumonia usually occurs in hospitalized persons with low resistance, but contaminated dusts can cause it in healthy individuals. It can develop rapidly and may be fatal. X-ray treatment (seeradiation therapy) of structures in the chest may cause temporary lung inflammation.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on pneumonia, visit Britannica.com.